Optoacoustic Imaging

Medical imaging is a key factor to early disease detection

Medical imaging is a key factor to early disease detection and patient-tailored therapy with the goal to reduce patient distress and health care cost. Among the various available techniques ultrasound has many advantages such as being real-time, cheap, safe, and easy to use, but difficulties in differential diagnosis often make subsequent use of more expensive or less safe methods such as MRI or CT mandatory.

The vision of the Optoacoustic Imaging Team is the advancement of ultrasound beyond the state-of-the-art, augmenting conventional ultrasound with novel ultrasound-based contrast modes.

• Optoacoustic imaging detects optically absorbing structures inside the optically turbid tissue via the detection of thermoelastically generated ultrasound when irradiating the tissue with short laser pulses. This allows e.g. the display of blood oxygen saturation in a spatially resolved way, which adds significant diagnostic value to conventional ultrasound. Within an NF project and within the European projects “CVENT” and “Pammoth”, we develop cutting-edge technology to bring OAI to successful clinical application.

• Speed of sound is a promising disease marker for e.g. cancer or liver fibrosis, but can to date only be measured in ultrasound transmission tomography of the female breast. Computed Ultrasound Tomography in Echo mode (CUTE) is a novel technique where speed of sound can be imaged in reflection mode on any part of the human body using conventional ultrasound equipment. This has great potential not only as a novel imaging modality, but will also improve conventional ultrasound because resolution crucially depends on accurate knowledge of sound speed. This technique was invented within an SNSF Ambizione project, and is now being continuously developed in said European as well as SNSF projects. Currently we are performing a clinical pilot study funded by a UniBE ID grant.

Our goal is the combination of conventional ultrasound, OAI and CUTE in a single device which will unify the virtues of real-time operability and patient safety with the diagnostic accuracy of multimodal imaging.