Ultrasound imaging can be used to estimate the morphology as well as the motion and deformation of tissues. If the interrogated tissue is actively deforming, this deformation is directly related to its function and quantification of this deformation is normally referred as 'strain imaging'. Tissue can also be deformed by applying an internal or external force and the resulting, induced deformation is a function of the mechanical tissue characteristics. In combination with the load applied, these strain maps can be used to estimate or reconstruct the mechanical properties of tissue. This technique was named 'elastography' by Ophir et al. in 1991. Elastography can be used for atherosclerotic plaque characterisation, while the contractility of the heart or skeletal muscles can be assessed with strain imaging. Rather than using the conventional video format (DICOM) image information, radio frequency (RF)-based ultrasound methods enable estimation of the deformation at higher resolution and with higher precision than commercial methods using Doppler (tissue Doppler imaging) or video image data (2D speckle tracking methods). However, the improvement in accuracy is mainly achieved when measuring strain along the ultrasound beam direction, so it has to be considered a 1D technique. Recently, this method has been extended to multiple directions and precision further improved by using spatial compounding of data acquired at multiple beam steered angles. Using similar techniques, the blood velocity and flow can be determined. RF-based techniques are also beneficial for automated segmentation of the ventricular cavities. In this paper, new developments in different techniques of quantifying cardiac function by strain imaging, automated segmentation, and methods of performing blood flow imaging are reviewed and their application in paediatric cardiology is discussed.
- Blood flow imaging
- Speckle tracking segmentation
- Ultrasound strain imaging