Improved Ultrasound Microvessel Imaging Using Deconvolution with Total Variation Regularization

U. Wai Lok, Joshua D. Trzasko, Chengwu Huang, Shanshan Tang, Ping Gong, Yohan Kim, Fabrice Lucien, Matthew R. Lowerison, Pengfei Song, Shigao Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Singular value decomposition-based clutter filters can robustly reject tissue clutter, allowing for detection of slow blood flow in imaging microvasculature. However, to identify microvessels, high ultrasound frequency must be used to increase the spatial resolution at the expense of shorter depth of penetration. Deconvolution using Tikhonov regularization is an imaging processing method widely used to improve spatial resolution. The ringing artifact of Tikhonov regularization, though, can produce image artifacts such as non-existent microvessels, which degrade image quality. Therefore, a deconvolution method using total variation is proposed in this study to improve spatial resolution and mitigate the ringing artifact. Performance of the proposed method was evaluated using chicken embryo brain, ex ovo chicken embryo chorioallantoic membrane and tumor data. Results revealed that the reconstructed power Doppler (PD) images are substantially improved in spatial resolution compared with original PD images: the full width half-maximum (FWHM) of the cross-sectional profile of a microvessel was improved from 132 to 83 µm. Two neighboring microvessels that were 154 µm apart were better separated using the proposed method than conventional PD imaging. Additionally, 223 FWHMs measured from the cross-sectional profiles of 223 vessels were used to determine the improvement in FWHM with the proposed method statistically. The mean ± standard deviation of the FWHM without and with the proposed method was 233.19 ± 85.08 and 172.31 ± 75.11 μm, respectively; the maximum FWHM without and with the proposed method was 693.01 and 668.69 μm; and the minimum FWHM without and with the proposed method was 73.92 and 45.74 μm. There were statistically significant differences between FWHMs with and without the proposed method according to the rank-sum test, p < 0.0001. The contrast-to-noise ratio improved from 1.06 to 4.03 dB with use of the proposed method. We also compared the proposed method with Tikhonov regularization using ex ovo chicken embryo chorioallantoic membrane data. We found that the proposed method outperformed Tikhonov regularization as false microvessels appeared using the Tikhonov regularization but not with the proposed method. These results indicate that the proposed method is capable of providing more robust PD images with higher spatial resolution and higher contrast-to-noise ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1098
Number of pages10
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Deconvolution
  • Microvessel imaging
  • Power Doppler imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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