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Ultrasound Med Biol. 2017 May;43(5):1004-1015. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2016.12.013. Epub 2017 Feb 14.

Impact of Filling Gas on Subharmonic Emissions of Phospholipid Ultrasound Contrast Agents.

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Imagerie et Cerveau, Inserm UMR U930, Université François Rabelais, Tours, France.
Imagerie et Cerveau, Inserm UMR U930, Université François Rabelais, Tours, France. Electronic address:


Subharmonic signals backscattered from gas-filled lipid-shelled microbubbles have generated significant research interest because they can improve the detection and sensitivity of contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging. However, the emission of subharmonic signals is strongly characterized by a temporal dependence, the origins of which have not been sufficiently elucidated. The features that influence subharmonic emissions need to be identified not only to better develop next-generation microbubble contrast agents, but also to develop more efficient subharmonic imaging (SHI) modes and therapeutic strategies. We examined the effect of microbubble filling gas on subharmonic emissions. Phospholipid shelled-microbubbles with different gaseous compositions such as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), octafluoropropane (C3F8) or decafluorobutane (C4F10), nitrogen (N2)/C4F10 or air were insonated using a driving frequency of 10 MHz and peak negative pressure of 450 kPa, and their acoustic responses were tracked by monitoring both second harmonic and subharmonic emissions. Microbubbles were first acoustically characterized with their original gas and then re-characterized after substitution of the original gas with air, SF6 or C4F10. A measureable change in intensity of the subharmonic emissions with a 20- to 40-min delayed onset and increasing subharmonic emissions of the order 12-18 dB was recorded for microbubbles filled with C4F10. Substitution of C4F10 with air eliminated the earlier observed delay in subharmonic emissions. Significantly, substitution of SF6 for C4F10 successfully triggered a delay in the subharmonic emissions of the resultant agents, whereas substitution of C4F10 for SF6 eliminated the earlier observed suppression of subharmonic emissions, clearly suggesting that the type of filling gas contained in the microbubble agent influences subharmonic emissions in a time-dependent manner. Because our agents were dispersed in air-stabilized phosphate-buffered saline, these results suggest that the diffusivity of the gas from the agent to the surrounding medium is correlated with the time-dependent evolution of subharmonic emissions.


Gas diffusion; Microbubbles; Non-linear imaging; Subharmonic; Ultrasound contrast agents

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