Wave front analysis for enhanced time-domain beamforming of point-like targets in optoacoustic imaging using a linear array
Using linear array transducers in combination with state-of-the-art multichannel electronics allows to perform optoacoustic imaging with frame rates only limited by the laser pulse repetition frequency and the acoustic time of flight. However, characteristic image artefacts resulting from the limited view and a lower SNR when compared to systems based on single-element focused transducers represent a burden for the clinical acceptance of the technology. In this paper, we present a new method for the improvement of image quality based on the analysis of the signal amplitudes along summation curves during the delay-and-sum beamforming process (DAS). The algorithm compares amplitude distributions along wave fronts with theoretical patterns from optoacoustic point sources. The method was validated on simulated and experimental phantom as well as in-vivo data. An improvement of the lateral resolution by more than a factor of two when comparing conventional DAS and our approach could be shown (numeric and experimental phantom data). For instance, on experimental data from a wire phantom, a PSF in the range of 0.18-0.22 mm was obtained with our approach against 0.48 mm for standard DAS. Furthermore, the SNR of a subcutaneous vessel 2.5 mm below the skin surface was improved by about 30 dB when compared to standard DAS.