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Effects of acoustic heterogeneity in breast thermoacoustic tomography.

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  • 1Optical Imaging Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3120, USA.


The effects of wavefront distortions induced by acoustic heterogeneities in breast thermoacoustic tomography (TAT) are studied. Amplitude distortions are shown to be insignificant for different scales of acoustic heterogeneities. For wavelength-scale, or smaller, heterogeneities, amplitude distortion of the wavefront is minor as a result of diffraction when the detectors are placed in the far field of the heterogeneities. For larger-scale heterogeneities at the parenchyma wall, by using a ray approach (geometric optics), we show that no refraction-induced multipath interference occurs and, consequently, that no severe amplitude distortion, such as is found in ultrasound tomography, exists. Next, we consider the effects of phase distortions (errors in time-of-flight) in our numerical studies. The numerical results on the spreads of point sources and boundaries caused by the phase distortions are in good agreement with the proposed formula. After that, we demonstrate that the blurring of images can be compensated for by using the distribution of acoustic velocity in the tissues in the reconstructions. The effects of the errors in the acoustical velocities on this compensation also are investigated. An approach to implement the compensation using only TAT data is proposed. Lastly, the differences in the effects of acoustic heterogeneity and the generation of speckles in breast TAT and breast ultrasound imaging are discussed.

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