Adaptive and Robust Vessel Quantification in Contrast-Free Ultrafast Ultrasound Microvessel Imaging

Shanshan Tang, Chengwu Huang, Ping Gong, U. Wai Lok, Chenyun Zhou, Lulu Yang, Kate M. Knoll, Kathryn A. Robinson, Shannon P. Sheedy, Joel G. Fletcher, David H. Bruining, John M. Knudsen, Shigao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The morphological features of vasculature in diseased tissue differ significantly from those in normal tissue. Therefore, vasculature quantification is crucial for disease diagnosis and staging. Ultrasound microvessel imaging (UMI) with ultrafast ultrasound acquisitions has been determined to have potential in clinical applications given its superior sensitivity in blood flow detection. However, the presence of spatial-dependent noise caused by a low imaging signal-to-noise ratio and incoherent clutter artifacts caused by moving hyperechoic scatterers degrades the performance of UMI and the reliability of vascular quantification. To tackle these issues, we proposed an improved UMI technique along with an adaptive vessel segmentation workflow for robust vessel identification and vascular feature quantification. A previously proposed sub-aperture cross-correlation technique and a normalized cross-correlation technique were applied to equalize the spatially dependent noise level and suppress the incoherent clutter artifact. A square operator and non-local means filter were then used to better separate the blood flow signal from residual background noise. On the de-noised ultrasound microvessel image, an automatic and adaptive vessel segmentation method was developed based on the different spatial patterns of blood flow signal and background noise. The proposed workflow was applied to a CIRS phantom, to a Doppler flow phantom and to an inflammatory bowel, kidney and liver, to validate its feasibility. Results revealed that automatic adaptive, and robust vessel identification performance can be achieved using the proposed method without the subjectivity caused by radiologists/operators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2095-2109
Number of pages15
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Microvessel imaging
  • Ultrafast ultrasound imaging
  • Vessel segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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