A coupled subsample displacement estimation method for ultrasound-based strain elastography

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© 2015 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. Obtaining accurate displacement estimates along both axial (parallel to the acoustic beam) and lateral (perpendicular to the beam) directions is an important task for several clinical applications such as shear strain imaging, modulus reconstruction and temperature imaging, where a full description of the two or three-dimensional (2D/3D) deformation field is required. In this study we propose an improved speckle tracking algorithm where axial and lateral motion estimations are simultaneously performed to enhance motion tracking accuracy. More specifically, using conventional ultrasound echo data, this algorithm first finds an iso-contour in the vicinity of the peak correlation between two segments of the pre- and post-deformation ultrasound radiofrequency echo data. The algorithm then attempts to find the center of the iso-contour of the correlation function that corresponds to the unknown (sub-sample) motion vector between these two segments of echo data. This algorithm has been tested using computer-simulated data, studies with a tissue-mimicking phantom, and in vivo breast lesion data. Computer simulation results show that the method improves the accuracy of both lateral and axial tracking. Such improvements are more significant when the deformation is small or along the lateral direction. Results from the tissue-mimicking phantom study are consistent with findings observed in computer simulations. Using in vivo breast lesion data we found that, compared to the 2D quadratic subsample displacement estimation methods, higher quality axial strain and shear strain images (e.g. 18.6% improvement in contrast-to-noise ratio for shear strain images) can be obtained for large deformations (up to 5% frame-to-frame and 15% local strains) in a multi-compression technique. Our initial results demonstrated that this conceptually and computationally simple method could improve the image quality of ultrasound-based strain elastography with current clinical equipment.

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Physics in Medicine and Biology