Effects of tissue stiffness, ultrasound frequency, and pressure on histotripsy-induced cavitation bubble behavior

Phys Med Biol. 2015 Mar 21;60(6):2271-92. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/60/6/2271. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


Histotripsy is an ultrasound ablation method that controls cavitation to fractionate soft tissue. In order to effectively fractionate tissue, histotripsy requires cavitation bubbles to rapidly expand from nanometer-sized initial nuclei into bubbles often larger than 50 µm. Using a negative pressure high enough to initiate a bubble cloud and expand bubbles to a sufficient size, histotripsy has been shown capable of completely fractionating soft tissue into acelluar debris resulting in effective tissue removal. Previous work has shown that the histotripsy process is affected by tissue mechanical properties with stiffer tissues showing increased resistance to histotripsy fractionation, which we hypothesize to be caused by impeded bubble expansion in stiffer tissues. In this study, the hypothesis that increases in tissue stiffness cause a reduction in bubble expansion was investigated both theoretically and experimentally. High speed optical imaging was used to capture a series of time delayed images of bubbles produced inside mechanically tunable agarose tissue phantoms using histotripsy pulses produced by 345 kHz, 500 kHz, 1.5 MHz, and 3 MHz histotripsy transducers. The results demonstrated a significant decrease in maximum bubble radius (Rmax) and collapse time (tc) with both increasing Young's modulus and increasing frequency. Furthermore, results showed that Rmax was not increased by raising the pressure above the intrinsic threshold. Finally, this work demonstrated the potential of using a dual-frequency strategy to modulate the expansion of histotripsy bubbles. Overall, the results of this study improve our understanding of how tissue stiffness and ultrasound parameters affect histotripsy-induced bubble behavior and provide a rational basis to tailor acoustic parameters for treatment of the specific tissues of interest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Elastic Modulus*
  • High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Ablation / adverse effects
  • High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Ablation / methods*
  • Pressure