To effectively postpone preterm birth, cervical ripening needs to be detected and delayed. As the cervix ripens, the spacing between the collagen fibers increases and fills with water, hyaluronan, decorin, and enzymes suggesting that the ultrasonic attenuation of the cervix should decrease. The decrease in ultrasonic attenuation may be detectable, leading to an effective means of detecting cervical ripening. Herein, the traditional attenuation slope-estimation algorithm based on measuring the downshift in center frequency of the ultrasonic backscattered signal with propagation depth was modified and applied to the cervix of rats. The modified algorithm was verified using computer simulations and an ex vivo tissue sample before being evaluated in in vivo animal studies. Spherically-focused f/3 transducers with 33-MHz center frequencies and with 9-mm focal lengths were used in both the simulations and experiments. The accuracy was better than 15% in the simulations, and the attenuation slope of the cervix in the ex vivo experiment was 2.6±0.6 dBcm-MHz, which is comparable to 2.5±0.4 dBcm-MHz measured using a through-transmission insertion loss technique. For the in vivo experiments, a statistically significant effect of ultrasonic attenuation with gestational age was not observed. The large variances in the in vivo results were most likely due to the natural variation in attenuation for biological tissue between animals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics