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Color VISION for improved ultrasound visualization of brachytherapy needles.

Medical Physics 2024 April 18
BACKGROUND: High dose rate brachytherapy is commonly used in the treatment of prostate cancer. Treatment planning is often performed under transrectal ultrasound (US) guidance, but brachytherapy needles can be challenging to digitize due to the presence of poor US conspicuity and imaging artifacts. The plan accuracy and quality, however, are dependent on the proper visualization of the needles with millimeter accuracy.

PURPOSE: This work describes a technique for generating a color overlay of needle locations atop the grayscale US image. Prototype devices were developed to produce vibrations in the brachytherapy needles that generate a high contrast color Doppler (CD) signal that highlights the needle locations with superior contrast and reduced artifacts. Denoted by the acronym color VISION (Vibrationally Induced Shimmering for Identifying an Object's Nature), the technology has the potential to improve applicator conspicuity and facilitate automated applicator digitization.

METHODS: Three prototype vibrational devices with frequencies between 200-450 Hz were designed in-house and evaluated with needle implants in a phantom and cadaveric male pelvis using: (1) an actuator attached to the front of a prostate needle template; (2) an actuator attached to the top of the needle template; and (3) a hand-held actuator with a stylet, inserted directly into a needle's inner lumen. Acquired images were postprocessed in MATLAB to evaluate the potential for automated digitization.

RESULTS: All prototype devices produced localized shimmering in implanted brachytherapy needles in both the axial and sagittal planes. The template mounted actuators provided better vibrational coupling and ease of operation than the stylet prototype. The Michelson contrast, or visibility, of the shimmering CD signal was 100% compared with ≤40% for B-mode imaging of a single needle. Proof-of-principle for automated applicator digitization using only the CD signal was demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS: The color VISION prototype devices successfully coupled mechanical vibrations into brachytherapy needles to generate US CD shimmering and accurately highlight brachytherapy needle locations. The high contrast and natively registered signal are promising for future work to automate the needle digitization and provide a real-time visual overlay of the applicator on the B-mode US image.

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