High-speed optical observations of contrast agent destruction

Ayache Bouakaz, Michel Versluis, N. de Jong

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Ultrasound contrast agents are now available since a few years and used for diagnostic purposes. Improved diagnostic decisions have been made possible with new imaging methods that are mainly based on the nonlinear properties of gas microbubbles. Since it is well known that contrast agents are destroyed by ultrasound when the acoustic pressure exceeds a threshold, extremely low acoustic pressures were applied to achieve enhanced contrast image quality. However, destruction of contrast microbubbles is not necessarily undesirable, since it is beneficial in, for example, destruction/reperfusion imaging and recently in drug delivery. We investigate in this experimental study the destruction dynamics of a contrast agent consisting of nitrogen bubbles encapsulated in a double polymer/albumin wall shell. This is accomplished using an ultrafast camera Brandaris that operates at a frame rate of 25 MHz and records 128 frames. The measurements were performed with an ultrasound sine burst of 10 cycles at 1.7 MHz. Different acoustic pressures were applied and various microsphere sizes were examined. The results show three different zones depending on the applied pressure and bubble size: these are nondestruction zone, transient zone and destruction zone. The nondestruction zone is reached for either very small microspheres or low mechanical indices (MI) (<0.3). In the destruction zone lie either large microspheres (5 m or higher) even when irradiated at low MIs or small microspheres (< 5 m) when the MI is above 0.6. The optical observations revealed that the destruction of the microspheres is characterized by shell rupture and gas release. The release of the gas gives rise to new free microbubble that lasts for a few milliseconds and then disappears due to dissolution. In the transient zone, the microspheres are mainly compressed in the first few cycles but no expansion is induced. After intense compressions, the shell fissures and gas escapes in the last cycles of the burst or during a second burst depending on the initial size and MI. These optical recordings are important to investigate contrast bubble destruction and can help in amplifying or minimizing this process. Indeed, bubble disruption remains the basis of most current sensitive methods for detecting perfusion with contrast agents and is an essential component of perfusion quantification with microbubbles, in addition to drug delivery applications and pressure measurements.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
JournalUltrasound in medicine and biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • IR-54287
  • Destruction
  • METIS-228143
  • Ultrasound
  • PB127 and Contrast agent
  • Gas release

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