Scatterer size estimation in pulse-echo ultrasound using focused sources: Theoretical approximations and simulation analysis

Timothy A. Bigelow, William D. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The speckle in ultrasound images has long been thought to contain information related to the tissue microstructure. Many different investigators have analyzed the frequency characteristics of the backscattered signals to estimate the scatterer acoustic concentration and size. Previous work has been mostly restricted to unfocused or weakly focused ultrasound sources, thus limiting its implementation with diagnostically relevant fields. Herein, we derive equations capable of estimating the size of a-scatterer for any reasonably focused source provided that the velocity potential field in the focal region can be approximated as a three-dimensional Gaussian beam, scatterers are a sufficient distance from the source, and the field is approximately constant across the scatterer. The calculations show that, when estimating the scatterer size, correcting for focusing requires a generalized attenuation-compensation function that includes both attenuation and focusing along the beam axis. The Gaussian approximation is validated by comparing the ideal velocity potential field for three spherically focused sources with f-numbers of 1, 2, and 4 to the Gaussian approximation for frequencies from 2 to 14 MHz. The theoretical derivations are evaluated by simulating the backscatter by using spherically focused sources (f-numbers of 1, 2, and 4) adjacent to attenuating media (0.05 to 1 dB/cm/MHz) that contain scatterers with Gaussian impedance distributions. The generalized attenuation-compensation function yielded results accurate to 7.2% while the traditional attenuation-compensation functions that neglected focusing had errors as high as 103%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-593
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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