Assessment of the Superharmonic Response of Microbubble Contrast Agents for Acoustic Angiography as a Function of Microbubble Parameters

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2019 Sep;45(9):2515-2524. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2019.04.027. Epub 2019 Jun 5.


Acoustic angiography is a superharmonic contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging technique that enables 3-D high-resolution microvascular visualization. This technique utilizes a dual-frequency imaging strategy, transmitting at a low frequency and receiving at a higher frequency, to detect high-frequency contrast agent signatures and separate them from tissue background. Prior studies have illustrated differences in microbubble scatter dependent on microbubble size and composition; however, most previously reported data have utilized a relatively narrow frequency bandwidth centered around the excitation frequency. To date, a comprehensive study of isolated microbubble superharmonic responses with a broadband dual-frequency system has not been performed. Here, the superharmonic signal production of 14 contrast agents with various gas cores, shell compositions, and bubble diameters at mechanical indices of 0.2 to 1.2 was evaluated using a transmit 4 MHz, receive 25 MHz configuration. Results indicate that perfluorocarbon cores or lipid shells with 18- or 20-carbon acyl chains produce more superharmonic signal than sulfur hexafluoride cores or lipid shells with 16-carbon acyl chains, respectively. As microbubble diameter increases from 1 to 4 µm, superharmonic generation decreases. In a comparison of two clinical agents, Definity and Optison, and one preclinical agent, Micromarker, Optison produced the least superharmonic signal. Overall, this work suggests that microbubbles around 1 μm in diameter with perfluorocarbon cores and longer-chained lipid shells perform best for superharmonic imaging at 4 MHz. Studies have found that microbubble superharmonic response follows trends different from those described in prior studies using a narrower frequency bandwidth centered around the excitation frequency. Future work will apply these results in vivo to optimize the sensitivity of acoustic angiography.

Keywords: Acoustic angiography; Microbubble; Perfluorocarbon; Superharmonic; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics*
  • Angiography / methods*
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Microbubbles*


  • Contrast Media