Ultrasound physics and instrumentation for pathologists.

Department of Pathology, University of California Los Angeles, Alhambra, California, USA. mail:
Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine (Impact Factor: 2.88). 10/2010; 134(10):1541-56. DOI: 10.1043/2009-0730-RA.1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Interest in pathologist-performed ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration is increasing. Educational courses discuss clinical ultrasound and biopsy techniques but not ultrasound physics and instrumentation.
To review modern ultrasound physics and instrumentation to help pathologists understand the basis of modern ultrasound.
A review of recent literature and textbooks was performed.
Ultrasound physics and instrumentation are the foundations of clinical ultrasound. The key physical principle is the piezoelectric effect. When stimulated by an electric current, certain crystals vibrate and produce ultrasound. A hand-held transducer converts electricity into ultrasound, transmits it into tissue, and listens for reflected ultrasound to return. The returning echoes are converted into electrical signals and used to create a 2-dimensional gray-scale image. Scanning at a high frequency improves axial resolution but has low tissue penetration. Electronic focusing moves the long-axis focus to depth of the object of interest and improves lateral resolution. The short-axis focus in 1-dimensional transducers is fixed, which results in poor elevational resolution away from the focal zone. Using multiple foci improves lateral resolution but degrades temporal resolution. The sonographer can adjust the dynamic range to change contrast and bring out subtle masses. Contrast resolution is limited by processing speed, monitor resolution, and gray-scale perception of the human eye. Ultrasound is an evolving field. New technologies include miniaturization, spatial compound imaging, tissue harmonics, and multidimensional transducers. Clinical cytopathologists who understand ultrasound physics, instrumentation, and clinical ultrasound are ready for the challenges of cytopathologist-performed ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration and core-needle biopsy in the 21st century.

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