Multi-Channel Optical Coherence Elastography Using Relative and Absolute Shear-Wave Time of Flight

PLoS One. 2017 Jan 20;12(1):e0169664. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169664. eCollection 2017.


Elastography, the imaging of elastic properties of soft tissues, is well developed for macroscopic clinical imaging of soft tissues and can provide useful information about various pathological processes which is complementary to that provided by the original modality. Scaling down of this technique should ply the field of cellular biology with valuable information with regard to elastic properties of cells and their environment. This paper evaluates the potential to develop such a tool by modifying a commercial optical coherence tomography (OCT) device to measure the speed of shear waves propagating in a three-dimensional (3D) medium. A needle, embedded in the gel, was excited to vibrate along its long axis and the displacement as a function of time and distance from the needle associated with the resulting shear waves was detected using four M-mode images acquired simultaneously using a commercial four-channel swept-source OCT system. Shear-wave time of arrival (TOA) was detected by tracking the axial OCT-speckle motion using cross-correlation methods. Shear-wave speed was then calculated from inter-channel differences of TOA for a single burst (the relative TOA method) and compared with the shear-wave speed determined from positional differences of TOA for a single channel over multiple bursts (the absolute TOA method). For homogeneous gels the relative method provided shear-wave speed with acceptable precision and accuracy when judged against the expected linear dependence of shear modulus on gelatine concentration (R2 = 0.95) and ultimate resolution capabilities limited by 184μm inter-channel distance. This overall approach shows promise for its eventual provision as a research tool in cancer cell biology. Further work is required to optimize parameters such as vibration frequency, burst length and amplitude, and to assess the lateral and axial resolutions of this type of device as well as to create 3D elastograms.

MeSH terms

  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods*

Grant support

Support was received from the Institute of Cancer Research and the CRUK and EPSRC Cancer Imaging Centre, in association with the Department of Health. Grant number: GFR005X. Michelson Diagnostics provided support in the form of salaries for author DW, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.