Comparison between color Doppler twinkling artifact and acoustic shadowing for renal calculus detection: an in vitro study

Wael Shabana, Ronald O Bude, Jonathan M Rubin
Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology 2009, 35 (2): 339-50
To assess the ability of the color Doppler twinkling artifact to detect renal stones relative to acoustic shadowing, we scanned seven uric acid calculi embedded in a tissue mimicking phantom and in sheep kidneys using a high frequency linear array and a standard curved linear array ultrasound scanheads (L12-5 and C5-2; Philips Ultrasound, Bothel, WA, USA). The stones were scanned in and out of focus. The scans were optimized for shadow formation in gray-scale imaging and for color twinkling in color Doppler imaging. The images were analyzed using Image J ( We calculated the contrast to noise ratios (C/N) for the acoustic shadows and the color twinkling artifact compared with background. These measurements were then evaluated using a single factor analysis of variance (ANOVA) and paired two-tailed t tests. With these comparisons, the C/Ns for twinkling were significantly higher than for acoustic shadowing. On average, twinkling produced 19.2 dB greater C/Ns for stones in the phantom and 17.6 dB more for the stones in the kidneys. In addition, ANOVA showed that twinkling is resistant to focusing and scanning frequency differences. The results suggest that the twinkling artifact is a robust method for detecting the presence of renal calculi. The color signature is easier to detect than is acoustic shadowing. Twinkling may be relatively resistant to many of the problems that plague ultrasound examinations for renal stones, i.e., out-of-focus scans that might be caused by beam aberration effects due to patient body habitus.

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