Improving ultrasound-based brachytherapy needle conspicuity by applying an echogenic coating

Eric E. Brost, Bradley J. Stish, Christine U. Lee, Matthew W. Urban, Christopher L. Deufel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Applicator conspicuity in ultrasound-guided brachytherapy procedures is commonly impaired by imaging artifacts or non-ideal imaging geometry, which can slow down applicator position digitization and increase the geometric uncertainty of the delivered dose distribution. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to improve the conspicuity of high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy needles under B-mode ultrasound imaging by applying an echogenic surface coating. Our hypothesis was that an echogenic coating would reduce artifacts and improve needle visualization within regions of signal degradation. Methods: In this study, 17-gauge, 25-cm long titanium HDR brachytherapy needles were coated with acoustically reflective microspheres over a 2.5 cm region starting from the needle tip. Three coating thicknesses (27 μm, 40 μm, 64 μm) were compared against an uncoated control needle. The coated and uncoated needles were imaged using B-mode ultrasound in a tissue-equivalent prostate phantom and in a cadaverous male pelvis using a transrectal probe. Needle conspicuity was assessed under multiple conditions: a single needle implant, an implant with multiple needles between the probe and the needle of interest, and an angled needle implant. All images were assessed qualitatively for needle conspicuity and the presence of artifacts and quantitatively using grey-scale image intensity values. Results: The 64 μm echogenic coating reduced the magnitude of reverberation artifacts by 31 ± 14% and comet tail artifacts by 40%–70%. The echogenic coating also improved needle contrast, measured by the relative differences in signal intensity compared with the adjacent environment, when needles were angled up to 30° with respect to the transducer probe in the cadaver. The improvements in conspicuity and artifact reduction increased with increasing coating thickness. The performance of the needles coated with the 64 μm thickness was qualitatively superior and yielded high-contrast, well-circumscribed signals in the cadaverous male pelvis, even under situations where a needle was acoustically shadowed by multiple other needles. Conclusions: An echogenic surface coating reduced imaging artifacts and improved needle conspicuity under realistic clinical conditions for ultrasound-based prostate or gynecological brachytherapy. The improved conspicuity has the potential to improve the efficiency of needle placement and the accuracy of needle position digitization during brachytherapy procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1418-1427
Number of pages10
JournalMedical physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • brachytherapy applicators
  • prostate brachytherapy
  • ultrasound-guided brachytherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving ultrasound-based brachytherapy needle conspicuity by applying an echogenic coating'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this