A viscoelastic model for the prediction of transcranial ultrasound propagation: application for the estimation of shear acoustic properties in the human skull

Phys Med Biol. 2017 Aug 7;62(17):6938-6962. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/aa7ccc.


A better understanding of ultrasound transmission through the human skull is fundamental to develop optimal imaging and therapeutic applications. In this study, we present global attenuation values and functions that correlate apparent density calculated from computed tomography scans to shear speed of sound. For this purpose, we used a model for sound propagation based on the viscoelastic wave equation (VWE) assuming isotropic conditions. The model was validated using a series of measurements with plates of different plastic materials and angles of incidence of 0°, 15° and 50°. The optimal functions for transcranial ultrasound propagation were established using the VWE, scan measurements of transcranial propagation with an angle of incidence of 40° and a genetic optimization algorithm. Ten (10) locations over three (3) skulls were used for ultrasound frequencies of 270 kHz and 836 kHz. Results with plastic materials demonstrated that the viscoelastic modeling predicted both longitudinal and shear propagation with an average (±s.d.) error of 9(±7)% of the wavelength in the predicted delay and an error of 6.7(±5)% in the estimation of transmitted power. Using the new optimal functions of speed of sound and global attenuation for the human skull, the proposed model predicted the transcranial ultrasound transmission for a frequency of 270 kHz with an expected error in the predicted delay of 5(±2.7)% of the wavelength. The sound propagation model predicted accurately the sound propagation regardless of either shear or longitudinal sound transmission dominated. For 836 kHz, the model predicted accurately in average with an error in the predicted delay of 17(±16)% of the wavelength. Results indicated the importance of the specificity of the information at a voxel level to better understand ultrasound transmission through the skull. These results and new model will be very valuable tools for the future development of transcranial applications of ultrasound therapy and imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Ultrasonography / methods*