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High-frame-rate tri-plane echocardiography with spiral arrays: From simulation to real-time implementation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Alessandro Ramalli, Sevan Harput, Stephanie Bezy, Enrico Boni, Robert J. Eckersley, Piero Tortoli, Jan D'Hooge

Original languageEnglish
Article number8832242
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number1
Published1 Jan 2020

King's Authors


Major cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are associated with (regional) dysfunction of the left ventricle. Despite the 3-D nature of the heart and its dynamics, the assessment of myocardial function is still largely based on 2-D ultrasound imaging, thereby making diagnosis heavily susceptible to the operator's expertise. Unfortunately, to date, 3-D echocardiography cannot provide adequate spatiotemporal resolution in real-time. Hence, tri-plane imaging has been introduced as a compromise between 2-D and true volumetric ultrasound imaging. However, tri-plane imaging typically requires high-end ultrasound systems equipped with fully populated matrix array probes embedded with expensive and little flexible electronics for two-stage beamforming. This article presents an advanced ultrasound system for real-time, high frame rate (HFR), and tri-plane echocardiography based on low element count sparse arrays, i.e., the so-called spiral arrays. The system was simulated, experimentally validated, and implemented for real-time operation on the ULA-OP 256 system. Five different array configurations were tested together with four different scan sequences, including multi-line and planar diverging wave transmission. In particular, the former can be exploited to achieve, in tri-plane imaging, the same temporal resolution currently used in clinical 2-D echocardiography, at the expenses of contrast (-3.5 dB) and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) (-8.7 dB). On the other hand, the transmission of planar diverging waves boosts the frame rate up to 250 Hz, but further compromises contrast (-10.5 dB), SNR (-9.7 dB), and lateral resolution (+46%). In conclusion, despite an unavoidable loss in image quality and sensitivity due to the limited number of elements, HFR tri-plane imaging with spiral arrays is shown to be feasible in real-time and may enable real-time functional analysis of all left ventricular segments of the heart.

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