High-Frequency Ultrasound Beamforming for a Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Probe
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Many surgeries are trending toward minimally-invasive procedures to reduce patient recovery times and produce fewer complications. These procedures are characterized by having small surgical openings, making it difficult to use medical imaging equipment not specifically designed to fit into small openings. Clinicians use laparoscopes or other optical microscopes as the primary tools for endoscopic surgeries, but these tools only provide imaging at the surface and lack depth-resolved information that would be of utmost value. Recently, a high-frequency endoscopic phased-array imaging probe has been developed which provides an unprecedented combination of depth-resolved imaging resolution with a minimally-invasive form factor (2.5 x 3.0 mm). This technology has the potential to provide enhanced image guidance capabilities to a wide array of surgical applications. To be suitable for medical imaging applications we developed a suitable electronic imaging system, commonly referred to as a beamformer, to support this imaging probe. This system was the world’s first real-time beamformer for high-frequency phased array imaging and uses a newly developed variable sampling scheme termed the ‘One Sample per Pixel’ technique for image formation. This hardware and imaging technique generate high-quality ultrasonic images in real-time. We improved on the system’s capabilities by implementing ultrafast imaging techniques that greatly increased the system’s usefulness while simultaneously developing a new ultrafast imaging technique for sector imaging called sparse orthogonal diverging wave imaging (SODWI), which offers a variety of advantages over similar techniques. These capabilities were applied to functional ultrasound imaging in a preclinical setting where we were able to detect the neurological activation of auditory structures in rats, in particular, the inferior colliculus. This functional ultrasound experiment was performed through a 3.5 x 6.0 mm opening, which is smaller than any previous functional ultrasound experiments in the literature. Future directions for developing the system and new applications of these technologies are described.