Effects of small variations of speed of sound in optoacoustic tomographic imaging

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Purpose: Speed of sound difference in the imaged object and surrounding coupling medium may reduce the resolution and overall quality of optoacoustic tomographic reconstructions obtained by assuming a uniform acoustic medium. In this work, the authors investigate the effects of acoustic heterogeneities and discuss potential benefits of accounting for those during the reconstruction procedure. Methods: The time shift of optoacoustic signals in an acoustically heterogeneous medium is studied theoretically by comparing different continuous and discrete wave propagation models. A modification of filtered back-projection reconstruction is subsequently implemented by considering a straight acoustic rays model for ultrasound propagation. The results obtained with this reconstruction procedure are compared numerically and experimentally to those obtained assuming a heuristically fitted uniform speed of sound in both full-view and limited-view optoacoustic tomography scenarios. Results: The theoretical analysis showcases that the errors in the time-of-flight of the signals predicted by considering the straight acoustic rays model tend to be generally small. When using this model for reconstructing simulated data, the resulting images accurately represent the theoretical ones. On the other hand, significant deviations in the location of the absorbing structures are found when using a uniform speed of sound assumption. The experimental results obtained with tissue-mimicking phantoms and a mouse postmortem are found to be consistent with the numerical simulations. Conclusions: Accurate analysis of effects of small speed of sound variations demonstrates that accounting for differences in the speed of sound allows improving optoacoustic reconstruction results in realistic imaging scenarios involving acoustic heterogeneities in tissues and surrounding media.

Original languageEnglish
Article number073301
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • heterogeneous acoustic medium
  • optoacoustic tomography
  • photoacoustic imaging
  • photoacoustic tomography
  • small animal imaging
  • speed of sound variations


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