Breast Density Changes the Breast-imaging Landscape

Cristen Bolan, MS


Appl Radiol. 2013;42(3):20-25. 

In This Article

Opto-acoustic Imaging: A New Angle on Ultrasound

A new approach to ultrasound is opto-acoustic imaging technology, which is designed to improve accuracy. Opto-acoustic imaging technology combines optical imaging with ultrasound to provide blood maps of the body. It uses very short pulses of laser light directed at the region of interest, which are converted into a real-time image. The colors (wavelengths) of the light pulses are chosen due to their ability to be preferentially absorbed either by oxygenated blood or by deoxygenated blood. The acoustic waves that result from the light absorption travel to the transducers. By using this array of transducers, it is possible to reconstruct 2D images.

"The difference in frequency that the ultrasound wave sends back depends on the characteristics of that tissue. When tissue has cancer, one of the hallmarks of cancer is that it does not regulate blood flow well because it uses up large amounts of oxygen," explained Mike Ulissey, MD, a medical consultant to Seno Medical Instruments Inc., San Antonio, TX.

"Using laser light at different frequencies, we can also co-register it with ultrasound imaging so that the radiologist can look at the lesion and identify its location, and use the laser wavelength from opto-acoustic imaging to analyze that specific mass or region of concern. With ultrasound, it looks at structural information, evaluating the morphology of the lesion at the margins."

Opto-acoustic imaging can be used not only for cancer detection but also to analyze a potentially suspicious breast lump.

"While opto-acoustic imaging is a functional technology, it is similar to MR spectroscopy and hybrid positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) in that it provides functional and anatomical data with what seems to be a similar level of accuracy. However, we anticipate it will be less expensive and will not use radiation, radioisotopes, and no contrast agents," said Dr. Ulissey.