Review of Quantitative Ultrasound: Envelope Statistics and Backscatter Coefficient Imaging and Contributions to Diagnostic Ultrasound

Michael L. Oelze, Jonathan Mamou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Conventional medical imaging technologies, including ultrasound, have continued to improve over the years. For example, in oncology, medical imaging is characterized by high sensitivity, i.e., the ability to detect anomalous tissue features, but the ability to classify these tissue features from images often lacks specificity. As a result, a large number of biopsies of tissues with suspicious image findings are performed each year with a vast majority of these biopsies resulting in a negative finding. To improve specificity of cancer imaging, quantitative imaging techniques can play an important role. Conventional ultrasound B-mode imaging is mainly qualitative in nature. However, quantitative ultrasound (QUS) imaging can provide specific numbers related to tissue features that can increase the specificity of image findings leading to improvements in diagnostic ultrasound. QUS imaging can encompass a wide variety of techniques including spectral-based parameterization, elastography, shear wave imaging, flow estimation, and envelope statistics. Currently, spectral-based parameterization and envelope statistics are not available on most conventional clinical ultrasound machines. However, in recent years, QUS techniques involving spectral-based parameterization and envelope statistics have demonstrated success in many applications, providing additional diagnostic capabilities. Spectral-based techniques include the estimation of the backscatter coefficient (BSC), estimation of attenuation, and estimation of scatterer properties such as the correlation length associated with an effective scatterer diameter (ESD) and the effective acoustic concentration (EAC) of scatterers. Envelope statistics include the estimation of the number density of scatterers and quantification of coherent to incoherent signals produced from the tissue. Challenges for clinical application include correctly accounting for attenuation effects and transmission losses and implementation of QUS on clinical devices. Successful clinical and preclinical applications demonstrating the ability of QUS to improve medical diagnostics include characterization of the myocardium during the cardiac cycle, cancer detection, classification of solid tumors and lymph nodes, detection and quantification of fatty liver disease, and monitoring and assessment of therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7377096
Pages (from-to)336-351
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Backscatter coefficients
  • envelope statistics
  • quantitative ultrasound
  • tissue characterization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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