Adaptive displacement estimation of thermal strain
Thermal strain imaging (TSI) can be used to differentiate between lipid and water-based tissues in atherosclerotic arteries. However, detecting small lipid pools in vivo requires accurate and robust displacement estimation over a wide range of displacement magnitudes. Phase-shift estimators such as Loupas’ estimator and time-shift estimators such as normalized cross-correlation (NXcorr) are commonly used to track tissue displacements. However, Loupas’ estimator is limited by phase-wrapping and NXcorr performs poorly when the SNR is low. In this paper, we present an adaptive displacement estimation algorithm that combines both Loupas’ estimator and NXcorr. We evaluated this algorithm using computer simulations and an ex vivo human tissue sample. Using 1-D simulation studies, we showed that when the displacement magnitude induced by thermal strain was >λ/8 and the electronic system SNR was >25.5 dB, the NXcorr displacement estimate was less biased than the estimate found using Loupas’ estimator.
On the other hand, when the displacement magnitude was ≤λ/4 and the electronic system SNR was ≤25.5 dB, Loupas’ estimator had less variance than NXcorr. We used these findings to design an adaptive displacement estimation algorithm. Computer simulations of TSI showed that the adaptive displacement estimator was less biased than either Loupas’ estimator or NXcorr. Strain reconstructed from the adaptive displacement estimates improved the strain SNR by 43.7 to 350% and the spatial accuracy by 1.2 to 23.0% (P <; 0.001). An ex vivo human tissue study provided results that were comparable to computer simulations. The results of this study showed that a novel displacement estimation algorithm, which combines two different displacement estimators, yielded improved displacement estimation and resulted in improved strain reconstruction.
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