Ultrasound localization microscopy to image and assess microvasculature in a rat kidney.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13676-7
The recent development of ultrasound localization microscopy, where individual microbubbles (contrast agents) are detected and tracked within the vasculature, provides new opportunities for imaging the vasculature of entire organs with a spatial resolution below the diffraction limit. In stationary tissue, recent studies have demonstrated a theoretical resolution on the order of microns. In this work, single microbubbles were localized in vivo in a rat kidney using a dedicated high frame rate imaging sequence. Organ motion was tracked by assuming rigid motion (translation and rotation) and appropriate correction was applied. In contrast to previous work, coherence-based non-linear phase inversion processing was used to reject tissue echoes while maintaining echoes from very slowly moving microbubbles. Blood velocity in the small vessels was estimated by tracking microbubbles, demonstrating the potential of this technique to improve vascular characterization. Previous optical studies of microbubbles in vessels of approximately 20 microns have shown that expansion is constrained, suggesting that microbubble echoes would be difficult to detect in such regions. We therefore utilized the echoes from individual MBs as microscopic sensors of slow flow associated with such vessels and demonstrate that highly correlated, wideband echoes are detected from individual microbubbles in vessels with flow rates below 2 mm/s.