University of Virginia Engineering School researchers have developed an advanced imaging algorithm that provides clearer ultrasound images. The teamís method of signal processing can be used with a range of imaging and sensing systems such as ultrasound, radar, sonar, telecommunications, and some optical imaging systems.

Called the Time-domain Optimized Near-field Estimator (TONE), the algorithm enhances the effectiveness of medical ultrasound imaging, providing medical professionals with dramatically improved image resolution and contrast. In an ultrasound scanner, computer algorithms use reflected sound waves to create real-time images of the organ or tissue being examined. The images are not always clear, which is a concern when screening for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. TONE reduces the contribution of off-axis signals -- reflections coming from undesired locations -- forming images with better contrast and resolution.

The team performed a series of simulations using sample ultrasound data to test the algorithm and compared it to conventional beamforming strategies (CBF) used by current ultrasound scanners. Results showed a significant improvement in spatial resolution over CBF. The next step will involve using the TONE algorithm to image actual human tissue where the technology could have the greatest impact.

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