High-frequency ultrasound imaging using microbubble (MB) contrast agents is becoming increasingly popular in pre-clinical and small animal studies of anatomy, flow and vascular expression of molecular epitopes. Currently, in vivo imaging studies rely on highly polydisperse microbubble suspensions, which may provide a complex and varied acoustic response. To study the effect of individual microbubble size populations, microbubbles of 1-2 microm, 4-5 microm and 6-8 microm diameter were isolated using the technique of differential centrifugation. Size-selected microbubbles were imaged in the mouse kidney over a range of concentrations using a Visualsonics Vevo 770 ultrasound imaging system (Visualsonics, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) with a 40-MHz probe in fundamental mode. Results demonstrate that contrast enhancement and circulation persistence are strongly dependent on microbubble size and concentration. Large microbubbles (4-5 and 6-8 microm) strongly enhanced the ultrasound image with positive contrast, while 1-2 microm microbubbles showed little enhancement. For example, the total integrated contrast enhancement, measured by the area under the time-intensity curve (AUC), increased 16-fold for 6-8 microm diameter microbubbles at 5 x 10(7) MB/bolus compared with 4-5 microm microbubbles at the same concentration. Interestingly, 1-2 microm diameter microbubbles, at any concentration, did not measurably enhance the integrated ultrasound signal at tissue depth, but did noticeably attenuate the signal, indicating that they had a low scattering-to-attenuation ratio. When concentration matched, larger microbubbles were more persistent in circulation. However, when volume matched, all microbubble sizes had a similar circulation half-life. These results indicated that dissolution of the gas core plays a larger role in contrast elimination than filtering by the lungs and spleen. The results of this study show that microbubbles can be tailored for optimal contrast enhancement in fundamental mode imaging.
Copyright 2010 World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.