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Med Phys. 2010 Nov;37(11):6096-100.

Photoacoustic angiography of the breast.

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OptoSonics, Inc., 108 Straight Road, Oriental, North Carolina 28571, USA.



The authors report a noninvasive technique and instrumentation for visualizing vasculature in the breast in three dimensions without using either ionizing radiation or exogenous contrast agents, such as iodine or gadolinium. Vasculature is visualized by virtue of its high hemoglobin content compared to surrounding breast parenchyma. The technique is compatible with dynamic contrast-enhanced studies.


Photoacoustic sonic waves were stimulated in the breast with a pulsed laser operating at 800 nm and a mean exposure of 20 mJ/pulse over an area of approximately 20 cm2. These waves were subsequently detected by a hemispherical array of piezoelectric transducers, the temporal signals from which were filtered and backprojected to form three-dimensional images with nearly uniform k-space sampling.


Three-dimensional vascular images of a human volunteer demonstrated a clear visualization of vascular anatomy with submillimeter spatial resolution to a maximum depth of 40 mm using a 24 s image acquisition protocol. Spatial resolution was nearly isotropic and approached 250 microm over a 64 x 64 x 50 mm field of view.


The authors have successfully visualized submillimeter breast vasculature to a depth of 40 mm using an illumination intensity that is 32 times less than the maximum permissible exposure according to the American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers. Clearly, the authors can achieve greater penetration depth in the breast by increasing the intensity and the cross-sectional area of the illumination beam. Given the 24 s image acquisition time without contrast agent, dynamic, contrast-enhanced, photoacoustic breast imaging using optically absorbing contrast agents is conceivable in the future.

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