Block-matching-based registration to evaluate ultrasound visibility of percutaneous needles in liver-mimicking phantoms

Med Phys. 2021 Dec;48(12):7602-7612. doi: 10.1002/mp.15305. Epub 2021 Oct 31.


Purpose: To present a novel methodical approach to compare visibility of percutaneous needles in ultrasound images.

Methods: A motor-driven rotation platform was used to gradually change the needle angle while capturing image data. Data analysis was automated using block-matching-based registration, with a tracking and refinement step. Every 25 frames, a Hough transform was used to improve needle alignments after large rotations. The method was demonstrated by comparing three commercial needles (14G radiofrequency ablation, RFA; 18G Trocar; 22G Chiba) and six prototype needles with different sizes, materials, and surface conditions (polished, sand-blasted, and kerfed), within polyvinyl alcohol phantom tissue and ex vivo bovine liver models. For each needle and angle, a contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) was determined to quantify visibility. CNR values are presented as a function of needle type and insertion angle. In addition, the normalized area under the (CNR-angle) curve was used as a summary metric to compare needles.

Results: In phantom tissue, the first kerfed needle design had the largest normalized area of visibility and the polished 1 mm diameter stainless steel needle the smallest (0.704 ± 0.199 vs. 0.154 ± 0.027, p < 0.01). In the ex vivo model, the second kerfed needle design had the largest normalized area of visibility, and the sand-blasted stainless steel needle the smallest (0.470 ± 0.190 vs. 0.127 ± 0.047, p < 0.001). As expected, the analysis showed needle visibility peaks at orthogonal insertion angles. For acute or obtuse angles, needle visibility was similar or reduced. Overall, the variability in needle visibility was considerably higher in livers.

Conclusion: The best overall visibility was found with kerfed needles and the commercial RFA needle. The presented methodical approach to quantify ultrasound visibility allows comparisons of (echogenic) needles, as well as other technological innovations aiming to improve ultrasound visibility of percutaneous needles, such as coatings, material treatments, and beam steering approaches.

Keywords: Hough transform; block-matching-based registration; bovine liver model; contrast-to-noise ratio; experimental methods; needle interventions; polyvinyl alcohol; ultrasound; visibility.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Needles*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Ultrasonography
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional*