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IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2005 Apr;24(4):436-40.

Combined ultrasound and optoacoustic system for real-time high-contrast vascular imaging in vivo.

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  • 1Institute of Applied Physics, University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.


In optoacoustic imaging, short laser pulses irradiate highly scattering human tissue and adiabatically heat embedded absorbing structures, such as blood vessels, to generate ultrasound transients by means of the thermoelastic effect. We present an optoacoustic vascular imaging system that records these transients on the skin surface with an ultrasound transducer array and displays the images online. With a single laser pulse a complete optoacoustic B-mode image can be acquired. The optoacoustic system exploits the high intrinsic optical contrast of blood and provides high-contrast images without the need for contrast agents. The high spatial resolution of the system is determined by the acoustic propagation and is limited to the submillimeter range by our 7.5-MHz linear array transducer. A Q-switched alexandrite laser emitting short near-infrared laser pulses at a wavelength of 760 nm allows an imaging depth of a few centimeters. The system provides real-time images at frame-rates of 7.5 Hz and optionally displays the classically generated ultrasound image alongside the optoacoustic image. The functionality of the system was demonstrated in vivo on human finger, arm and leg. The proposed system combines the merits and most compelling features of optics and ultrasound in a single high-contrast vascular imaging device.

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