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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Nov;111(5):1323-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01203.2010. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Microbubble detection following hyperbaric chamber dives using dual-frequency ultrasound.

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  • 1Dartmouth Medical School, One Medical Center Dr., Lebanon, NH 03756.


Venous gas emboli (VGE) can be readily detected in the bloodstream using existing ultrasound methods. No method currently exists to detect decompression-induced microbubbles in tissue. We hypothesized that dual-frequency ultrasound (DFU) could detect these microbubbles. With DFU, microbubbles are driven with two frequencies: a lower "pump" (set to the resonant frequency of the desired bubble size) and a higher "image" frequency. A bubble of the resonant size emits the sum and difference of the two transmitted frequencies. For this study we used a pump frequency of 2.25 MHz and an image frequency of 5.0 MHz, which detects bubbles of roughly 1-10 μm in diameter in a water tank. Four anesthetized swine were pressurized at 4.5 ATA for 2 h and decompressed over 5 min, inducing moderate to very severe VGE scores. Four sites on the thigh of each swine were monitored with DFU before and after the dives. A single mock dive was also performed. The number of sites returning signals consistent with microbubbles increased dramatically after the chamber dive (P < 0.01), but did not change with the mock dive. The increase in DFU signal after the chamber dive was sustained and present at multiple sites in multiple swine. This research shows for the first time that decompression-induced tissue microbubbles can be detected using DFU and that DFU could be used to monitor decompression-induced microbubbles at multiple sites on the body. Additionally, DFU could be used to track the time course of microbubble formation and growth during decompression stress.

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