Ultrasound is an attractive modality for temperature monitoring because it is non-ionizing, convenient, inexpensive and has relatively simple signal processing requirements. This modality may be useful for temperature estimation if a temperature-dependent ultrasonic parameter can be identified, measured and calibrated. The most prominent methods for using ultrasound as a non-invasive thermometer exploit either (1) echo shifts due to changes in tissue thermal expansion and speed of sound (SOS), (2) variation in the attenuation coefficient or (3) change in backscattered energy from tissue inhomogeneities. The use of echo shifts has received the most attention in the last decade. By tracking scattering volumes and measuring the time shift of received echoes, investigators have been able to predict the temperature from a region of interest both theoretically and experimentally in phantoms, in isolated tissue regions in vitro and preliminary in vivo studies. A limitation of this method for general temperature monitoring is that prior knowledge of both SOS and thermal-expansion coefficients is necessary. Acoustic attenuation is dependent on temperature, but with significant changes occurring only at temperatures above 50°C, which may lead to its use in thermal ablation therapies. Minimal change in attenuation, however, below this temperature range reduces its attractiveness for use in clinical hyperthermia. Models and measurements of the change in backscattered energy suggest that, over the clinical hyperthermia temperature range, changes in backscattered energy are dependent on the properties of individual scatterers or scattering regions. Calibration of the backscattered energy from different tissue regions is an important goal of this approach. All methods must be able to cope with motion of the image features on which temperature estimates are based. A crucial step in identifying a viable ultrasonic approach to temperature estimation is its performance during in vivo tests.
- Diagnostic ultrasound
- Non-invasive thermometry