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Theses Doctoral

Ultrasonic Pulse Wave Imaging for in vivo Assessment of Vascular Wall Dynamics and Characterization of Arterial Pathologies

Li, Ronny Xi

Arterial diseases such as hypertension, carotid stenosis, and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) may progress silently without symptoms and contribute to acute cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, and aneurysm rupture, which are consistently among the leading causes of death worldwide. The arterial pulse wave, regarded as one of the fundamental vital signs of clinical medicine, originates from the heart and propagates throughout the arterial tree as a pressure, flow velocity, and wall displacement wave, giving rise to the natural pulsation of the arteries. The dynamic properties of the pulse wave are intimately related to the physical state of the cardiovascular system. Thus, the assessment of the arterial wall dynamics driven by the pulse wave may provide valuable insights into vascular mechanical properties for the early detection and characterization of arterial pathologies.
The focus of this dissertation was to develop and clinically implement Pulse Wave Imaging (PWI), an ultrasound elasticity imaging-based method for the visualization and spatio-temporal mapping of the pulse wave propagation at any accessible arterial location. Motion estimation algorithms based on cross-correlation of the ultrasound radio-frequency (RF) signals were used to track the arterial walls and capture the pulse wave-induced displacements over the cardiac cycle. PWI facilitates the image-guided measurement of clinically relevant pulse wave features such as propagation speed (pulse wave velocity, or PWV), uniformity, and morphology as well as derivation of the pulse pressure waveform.
A parametric study investigating the performance of PWI in two canine aortas ex vivo and 10 normal, healthy human arteries in vivo established the optimal image acquisition and signal processing parameters for reliable measurement of the PWV and wave propagation uniformity. Using this framework, three separate clinical feasibility studies were conducted in patients diagnosed with hypertension, AAA, and carotid stenosis.
In a pilot study comparing hypertensive and aneurysmal abdominal aortas with normal controls, the AAA group exhibited significantly higher PWV and lower wave propagation uniformity. A “teetering” motion upon pulse wave arrival was detected in the smaller aneurysms (< 5 cm in diameter) but not in the larger aneurysms (> 5.5 cm in diameter). While no significant difference in PWV or propagation uniformity was observed between normal and hypertensive aortas, qualitative differences in the pulse wave morphology along the imaged aortic segment may be an indicator of increased wave reflection caused by elevated blood pressure and/or arterial stiffness.
Pulse Wave Ultrasound Manometry (PWUM) was introduced as an extension of the PWI method for the derivation of the pulse pressure (PP) waveform in large central arteries. A feasibility study in 5 normotensive, 9 pre-hypertensive, and 5 hypertensive subjects indicated that a significantly higher PP in the hypertensive group was detected in the abdominal aorta by PWUM but not in the peripheral arteries by alternative devices (i.e. a radial applanation tonometer and the brachial sphygmomanometer cuff). A relatively strong positive correlation between aortic PP and both radial and brachial PP was observed in the hypertensive group but not in the normal and pre-hypertensive groups, confirming the notion that PP variation throughout the arterial tree may not be uniform in relatively compliant arteries.
The application of PWI in 10 stenotic carotid arteries identified phenomenon such as wave convergence, elevated PWV, and decreased cumulative displacement around and/or within regions of atherosclerotic plaque. Intra-plaque mapping of the PWV and cumulative strain demonstrated the potential to quantitatively differentiate stable (i.e. calcified) and vulnerable (i.e. lipid) plaque components. The lack of correlation between quantitative measurements (PWV, modulus, displacement, and strain) and expected plaque stiffness illuminates to need to consider several physiological and imaging-related factors such as turbulent flow, wave reflection, imaging location, and the applicability of established theoretical models in vivo.
PWI presents a highly translational method for visualization of the arterial pulse wave and the image-guided measurement of several clinically relevant pulse wave features. The aforementioned findings collectively demonstrated the potential of PWI to detect, diagnose, and characterize vascular disease based on qualitative and quantitative information about arterial wall dynamics under pathological conditions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Konofagou, Elisa E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 4, 2016