Characterisation of contrast agent microbubbles for ultrasound imaging and therapy research

Mulvana, Helen and Browning, Richard J. and Luan, Ying and de Jong, Nico and Tang, Meng-Xing and Eckersley, Robert J. and Stride, Eleanor (2017) Characterisation of contrast agent microbubbles for ultrasound imaging and therapy research. IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, 64 (1). pp. 232-251. ISSN 0885-3010 (

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The high efficiency with which gas microbubbles can scatter ultrasound compared to the surrounding blood pool or tissues has led to their widespread employment as contrast agents in ultrasound imaging. In recent years their applications have been extended to include super-resolution imaging and the stimulation of localized bio-effects for therapy. The growing exploitation of contrast agents in ultrasound, and in particular these recent developments, have amplified the need to characterize and fully understand microbubble behavior. The aim in doing so is to more fully exploit their utility for both diagnostic imaging and potential future therapeutic applications. This paper presents the key characteristics of microbubbles that determine their efficacy in diagnostic and therapeutic applications and the corresponding techniques for their measurement. In each case we have presented information regarding the methods available and their respective strengths and limitations, with the aim of presenting information relevant to the selection of appropriate characterization methods. First we examine methods for determining the physical properties of microbubble suspensions and then techniques for acoustic characterization of both suspensions and single microbubbles. The next section covers characterization of microbubbles as therapeutic agents, including as drug carriers for which, detailed understanding of their surface characteristics and drug loading capacity is required. Finally we discuss the attempts which have been made to allow comparison across the methods employed by various groups to characterize and describe their microbubble suspensions and promote wider discussion and comparison of microbubble behavior.