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Robust finite impulse response beamforming applied to medical ultrasound

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2 Author(s)
Guenther, D. ; Dept. of Biomed. Eng., Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA ; Walker, W.F.

We previously described a beamformer architecture that replaces the single apodization weights on each receive channel with channel-unique finite impulse response (FIR) filters. The filter weights are designed to optimize the contrast resolution performance of the imaging system. Although the FIR beamformer offers significant gains in contrast resolution, the beamformer suffers from low sensitivity, and its performance rapidly degrades in the presence of noise. In this paper, a new method is presented to improve the robustness of the FIR beamformer to electronic noise as well as variation or uncertainty in the array response. A method is also described that controls the sidelobe levels of the FIR beamformer's spatial response by applying an arbitrary weighting function in the filter design algorithm. The robust FIR beamformer is analyzed using a generalized cystic resolution metric that quantifies a beamformer's clinical imaging performance as a function of cyst size and channel input SNR. Fundamental performance limits are compared between 2 robust FIR beamformer's the dynamic focus FIR (DF-FIR) beamformer and the group focus FIR (GF-FIR) beamformer-the conventional delay-and-sum (DAS) beamformer, and the spatial-matched filter (SMF) beamformer. Results from this study show that the new DF- and GF-FIR beamformers are more robust to electronic noise compared with the optimal contrast resolution FIR beamformer. Furthermore, the added robustness comes with only a slight loss in cystic resolution. Results from the generalized cystic resolution metric show that a 9-tap robust FIR beamformer outperforms the SMF and DAS beamformer until receive channel input SNR drops below -5 dB, whereas the 9-tap optimal contrast resolution beamformer's performance deteriorates around 50 dB SNR. The effects of moderate phase aberrations, characterized by an a priori root-mean-square strength of 28 ns and an a priori full-width at half-maximum correlation length of 3.6 mm, are inves- igated on the robust FIR beamformers. Full sets of robust FIR beamformer filter weights are constructed using an in silico model scanner and the L14-5/38 mm probe. Using the derived weights, a series of simulated point target and anechoic cyst B-mode images are generated to investigate further the potential increases in contrast resolution when using the robust FIR beamformers. Under the investigated conditions, the 7-tap optimal contrast resolution beamformer and the 7-tap robust beamformer with added SNR constraint increase lesion detectability by 247 and 137% compared with the conventional DAS beamformer, respectively. Finally, experimental phantom and in vivo images are produced using this novel receive architecture. The simulated and experimental images clearly show a reduction in clutter and an increase in contrast resolution compared with the conventionally beamformed images. This novel receive beamformer can be applied to any conventional ultrasound system where the system response is reasonably well characterized.

Published in:

Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:56 ,  Issue: 6 )