Background Removal and Vessel Filtering of Noncontrast Ultrasound Images of Microvasculature

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17 Scopus citations


Objective: Recent advances in ultrasound Doppler imaging have made it possible to visualize small vessels with diameters near the imaging resolution limits using spatiotemporal singular value thresholding of long ensembles of ultrasound data. However, vessel images derived based on this method present severe intensity variations and additional background noise that limits visibility and subsequent processing such as centerline extraction and morphological analysis. The goal of this paper is to devise a method to enhance vessel-background separation directly on the power Doppler images by exploiting blood echo-noise independence. Method: We present a two-step algorithm to mitigate these adverse effects when using singular value thresholding for obtaining gross vasculature images. Our method comprises a morphological-based filtering for removing global and local background signals and a multiscale Hessian-based vessel enhancement filtering to further improve the vascular structures. We applied our method for in vivo imaging of the microvasculature of kidney in one healthy subject, liver in five healthy subjects, thyroid nodules in five patients, and breast tumors in five patients. Results: Singular value thresholding, top-hat filtering, and Hessian-based vessel enhancement filtering each provided an average peak-to-side level gain of 1.11, 18.55, and 2.26 dB, respectively, resulting in an overall gain of 21.92 dB when compared to the conventional power Doppler imaging using infinite impulse response filtering. Conclusion: Singular value thresholding combined with morphological and Hessian-based vessel enhancement filtering provides a powerful tool for visualization of the deep-seated small vessels using long ultrasound echo ensembles without requiring any type of contrast enhancing agents. Significance: This method provides a fast and cost-effective modality for in vivo assessment of the microvasculature suitable for both clinical and preclinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8416688
Pages (from-to)831-842
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Microvasculature
  • morphological filtering
  • singular value decomposition
  • ultrasound Doppler imaging
  • vessel filtering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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