Optical and acoustical observations of the effects of ultrasound on contrast agents

Paul A. Dayton, Karen E. Morgan, Alexander L. Klibanov, Gary H. Brandenburger, Kathy W. Ferrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


Optimal use of encapsulated microbubbles for ultrasound contrast agents and drug delivery requires an understanding of the complex set of phenomena that affect the contrast agent echo and persistence. With the use of a video microscopy system coupled to either an ultrasound flow phantom or a chamber for insonifying stationary bubbles, we show thai, ultrasound has significant effects on encapsulated microbubbles. In vitro studies show that a train of ultrasound pulses can alter the structure of an albumin-shelled bubble, initiate various mechanisms of bubble destruction or produce aggregation that changes the echo spectrum. In this analysis, changes observed optically are compared with those observed acoustically for both albumin and lipid-shelled agents. We show that, when insonifled with a narrowband pulse at an acoustic pressure of several hundred kPa, a phospholipid-shelled bubble can undergo net radius fluctuations of at least 15%; and an albumin-shelled bubble initially demonstrates constrained expansion and contraction. If the albumin shell contains air, the shell may not initially experience surface tension; therefore, the echo changes more significantly with repeated pulsing. A set of observations of contrast agent destruction is presented, which includes the slow diffusion of gas through the shell and formation of a shell defect followed by rapid diffusion of gas into the surrounding liquid. These observations demonstrate that the low-solubility gas used in these agents can persist for several hundred milliseconds in solution. With the transmission of a high-pulse repetition rate and a low pressure, the echoes from contrast agents can be affected by secondary radiation force. Secondary radiation force is an attractive force for these experimental conditions, creating aggregates with distinct echo characteristics and extended persistence. The scattered echo from an aggregate is several times stronger and more narrowband than echoes from individual bubbles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-232
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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