Arterial vulnerable plaque characterization using ultrasound-induced thermal strain imaging (TSI)

Kang Kim, Sheng Wen Huang, Timothy L. Hall, Russell S. Witte, Thomas L. Chenevert, Matthew O'Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Thermal strain imaging (TSI) is demonstrated in two model systems mimicking two potential clinical applications. First, a custom ultrasound (US) microscope produced high-resolution TSI images of an excised porcine coronary artery. Samples were placed in a temperature-controlled water chamber and scanned transversely and longitudinally. Phase-sensitive, correlation-based speckle tracking was applied to map the spatial distribution of temporal strain across the sample. TSI differentiated fatty tissue from water-based arterial wall and muscle with high contrast and a spatial resolution of 60 μm for a 50-MHz transducer. Both transverse and longitudinal TSI images compared well with B-scans of arterial wall structures, including intima, media, adventitia, and overlying fatty tissue. A second model system was used to test the hypothesis that US can produce the heating pattern required for TSI of internal structures. A 2-D phased array with independent drive electronics was combined with a conventional US scanner (iU22, Philips, Bothell, WA) for these studies. This 513-element array, originally designed for the US therapy, acted as the US heat source. To quantify the temporal strain induced by this system, TSI was performed on a homogeneous rubber phantom. TSI temperature estimates were within 3% error for a 3.2°C temperature rise produced within 2 s using a specially designed beamformer and pulse sequencer. The system was then used to produce TSI scanning of an excised kidney containing an intact piece of fat below the collecting system. These images were validated using an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pulse sequence designed for lipid quantification. TSI scans matched well MRI scans and histology both anatomically and quantitatively. Finally, to test the potential of US-induced TSI for a significant clinical problem, images were obtained on an excised canine aorta with fatty tissue inside the lumen. Both longitudinal and transversal TSI agreed well with anatomy. These in vitro results demonstrate the potential of high-resolution US-induced TSI with a small temperature change (<1°C) for plaque characterization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Cardiovascular plaque characterization
  • Thermal strain imaging
  • Ultrasound-induced thermal strain imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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