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June 3, 2021 — Scientific Reports


Microbubbles (MB) are widely used as contrast agents to perform contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) imaging and as acoustic amplifiers of mechanical bioeffects incited by therapeutic-level ultrasound. The distribution of MBs in the brain is not yet fully understood, thereby limiting intra-operative CEUS guidance or MB-based FUS treatments. In this paper we describe a robust platform for quantification of MB distribution in the human brain, allowing to quantitatively discriminate between tumoral and normal brain tissues and we provide new information regarding real-time cerebral MBs distribution. Intraoperative CEUS imaging was performed during surgical tumor resection using an ultrasound machine (MyLab Twice, Esaote, Italy) equipped with a multifrequency (3–11 MHz) linear array probe (LA332) and a specific low mechanical index (MI < 0.4) CEUS algorithm (CnTi, Esaote, Italy; section thickness, 0.245 cm) for non-destructive continuous MBs imaging. CEUS acquisition is started by enabling the CnTI PEN-M algorithm automatically setting the MI at 0.4 with a center frequency of 2.94 MHz–10 Hz frame rate at 80 mm—allowing for continuous non-destructive MBs imaging. 19 ultrasound image sets of adequate length were selected and retrospectively analyzed using a custom image processing software for quantitative analysis of echo power. Regions of interest (ROIs) were drawn on key structures (artery–tumor–white matter) by a blinded neurosurgeon, following which peak enhancement and time intensity curves (TICs) were quantified. CEUS images revealed clear qualitative differences in MB distribution: arteries showed the earliest and highest enhancement among all structures, followed by tumor and white matter regions, respectively. The custom software built for quantitative analysis effectively captured these differences. Quantified peak intensities showed regions containing artery, tumor or white matter structures having an average MB intensity of 0.584, 0.436 and 0.175 units, respectively. Moreover, the normalized area under TICs revealed the time of flight for MB to be significantly lower in brain tissue as compared with tumor tissue. Significant heterogeneities in TICs were also observed within different regions of the same brain lesion. In this study, we provide the most comprehensive strategy for accurate quantitative analysis of MBs distribution in the human brain by means of CEUS intraoperative imaging. Furthermore our results demonstrate that CEUS imaging quantitative analysis enables discernment between different types of brain tumors as well as regions and structures within the brain. Similar considerations will be important for the planning and implementation of MB-based imaging or treatments in the future.

Authors: Francesco Prada 125, Antonio G. Gennari 23, Ian M. Linville 4, Michael E. Mutersbaugh 4, Zhihang Chen 5, Natasha Sheybani 4, Francesco DiMeco 267, Frederic Padilla 1, John A. Hossack 4

1 University of Virginia Health System, USA; 2 Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico C. Besta, Milan, Italy; 3 Department of Radiology, Cattinara Hospital, University of Trieste, Italy; 4 Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, USA; 5 Focused Ultrasound Foundation, Charlottesville, VA, USA; 6 Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan, Italy; 7 Department of Neurological Surgery, Johns Hopkins Medical School, USA

Read full text at: Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 11797 (2021)

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