Ultrasonic imaging of the human body

Ultrasonic imaging is a mature medical technology. It accounts for one in four imaging studies and this proportion is increasing. Wave propagation, beam formation, the Doppler effect and the properties of tissues that affect imaging are discussed. The transducer materials and construction of the probes used in imaging are described, as well as the methods of measuring the ultrasonic field. The history of ultrasonic imaging is briefly reviewed. The pulse-echo technique is used for real-time grey-scale imaging and the factors that limit the spatial and temporal resolutions are considered. The construction and performance of transducer arrays are discussed, together with the associated beam steering and signal processing systems. Speckle and scattering by blood are introduced, particularly in the context of the observation of blood flow by means of the Doppler effect and by time-domain signal processing. Colour flow imaging, and the colour coding schemes used for velocity and power imaging, are explained. The acquisition and display of three-dimensional images are discussed, with particular reference to speed and segmentation. Specialized imaging methods, including endoluminal scanning, synthetic aperture imaging, computed tomography, elasticity imaging, microscanning, contrast agents, and tissue harmonic imaging, are reviewed. There is a discussion of issues relating to safety. Conclusions are drawn and future prospects are considered.

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