Multivariable Dependence of Acoustic Contrast of Fluorocarbon and Xenon Microbubbles under Flow

Rajarshi Chattaraj, Daniel A. Hammer, Daeyeon Lee, Chandra M. Sehgal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Microbubbles (MBs) are 1 to 10 µm gas particles stabilized by an amphiphilic shell capable of responding to biomedical ultrasound with strong acoustic signals, allowing them to be commonly used in ultrasound imaging and therapy. The composition of both the shell and the core determines their stability and acoustic properties. While there has been extensive characterization of the dissolution, oscillation, cavitation, collapse and therefore, ultrasound contrast of MBs under static conditions, few reports have examined such behavior under hydrodynamic flow. In this study, we evaluate the interplay of ultrasound parameters (five different mechanical indices [MIs]), MB shell parameter (shell stiffness), type of gas (perfluorocarbon for diagnostic imaging and xenon as a therapeutic gas), and a flow parameter (flow rate) on the ultrasound signal of phospholipid-stabilized MBs flowing through a latex tube embedded in a tissue-mimicking phantom. We find that the contrast gradient (CG), a metric of the rate of decay of contrast along the length of the tube, and the contrast peak (CP), the location where the maximum contrast is reached, depend on the conditions of flow, imaging, and MB material. For instance, while the contrast near the flow inlet of the field of view is highest for a softer shell (dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine [DPPC], C16) than for stiffer shells (distearoylphosphatidylcholine [DSPC], C18, and dibehenoylphosphatidylcholine [DBPC], C22), the contrast decay is also faster; stiffer shells provide more resistance and hence lead to slower MB dissolution/destruction. At higher flow rates, the CG is low for a fixed length of time because each MB is exposed to ultrasound for a shorter period. The CG becomes high for low flow rates, especially at high incident pressures (high MI), causing more MB destruction closer to the inlet of the field of view. Also, the CP shifts toward the inlet at low flow rates, high MIs, and low shell stiffness. We also report the first demonstration of sustained ultrasound flow imaging of a water-soluble, therapeutic gas MB (xenon). We find that an increased MB concentration is necessary for obtaining the same signal magnitude for xenon MBs. In summary, this study builds a framework depicting how multiple variables simultaneously affect the evolution of MB ultrasound contrast under flow. Depending on the MB composition, imaging conditions, transducer positioning, and image processing, building on such a framework could potentially allow for extraction of additional diagnostic information than is commonly analyzed for physiological flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2676-2691
Number of pages16
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


  • Contrast gradient
  • Flow imaging
  • Mechanical index
  • Microbubbles
  • Shell stiffness
  • Xenon


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