Quantitative assessment of ensemble coherency in contrast-free ultrasound microvasculature imaging

Rohit Nayak, Justin MacNeill, Cecilia Flores, Jeremy Webb, Mostafa Fatemi, Azra Alizad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Contrast-free visualization of microvascular blood flow (MBF) using ultrasound can play a valuable role in diagnosis and detection of diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the importance of quantifying ensemble coherence for robust MBF imaging. We propose a novel approach to quantify ensemble coherence by estimating the local spatiotemporal correlation (LSTC) image, and evaluate its efficacy through simulation and in vivo studies. Methods: The in vivo patient studies included three volunteers with a suspicious breast tumor, 15 volunteers with a suspicious thyroid tumor, and two healthy volunteers for renal MBF imaging. The breast data displayed negligible prior motion and were used for simulation analysis involving synthetically induced motion, to assess its impact on ensemble coherency and motion artifacts in MBF images. The in vivo thyroid data involved complex physiological motion due to its proximity to the pulsating carotid artery, which was used to assess the in vivo efficacy of the proposed technique. Further, in vivo renal MBF images demonstrated the feasibility of using the proposed ensemble coherence metric for curved array-based MBF imaging involving phase conversion. All ultrasound data were acquired at high imaging frame rates and the tissue signal was suppressed using spatiotemporal clutter filtering. Thyroid tissue motion was estimated using two-dimensional normalized cross correlation-based speckle tracking, which was subsequently used for ensemble motion correction. The coherence of the MBF image was quantified based on Casorati correlation of the Doppler ensemble. Results: The simulation results demonstrated that an increase in ensemble motion corresponded with a decrease in ensemble coherency, which reciprocally degraded the MBF images. Further the data acquired from breast tumors demonstrated higher ensemble coherency than that from thyroid tumors. Motion correction improved the coherence of the thyroid MBF images, which substantially improved its visualization. The proposed coherence metrics were also useful in assessing the ensemble coherence for renal MBF imaging. The results also demonstrated that the proposed coherence metric can be reliably estimated from downsampled ensembles (by up to 90 (Formula presented.)), thus allowing improved computational efficiency for potential applications in real-time MBF imaging. Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates the importance of assessing ensemble coherency in contrast-free MBF imaging. The proposed LSTC image quantified coherence of the Doppler ensemble for robust MBF imaging. The results obtained from this pilot study are promising, and warrant further development and in vivo validation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3540-3558
Number of pages19
JournalMedical physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • contrast free microvascular imaging
  • ensemble coherence
  • motion tracking and correction
  • power Doppler imaging
  • quality metric
  • ultrafast imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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