Simulations and human cadaver head studies to identify optimal acoustic receiver locations for minimally invasive photoacoustic-guided neurosurgery

Michelle T. Graham, Jiaqi Huang, Francis X. Creighton, Muyinatu A. Lediju Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Real-time intraoperative guidance during minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures (e.g., endonasal transsphenoidal surgery) is often limited to endoscopy and CT-guided image navigation, which can be suboptimal at locating underlying blood vessels and nerves. Accidental damage to these critical structures can have severe surgical complications, including patient blindness and death. Photoacoustic image guidance was previously proposed as a method to prevent accidental injury. While the proposed technique remains promising, the original light delivery and sound reception components of this technology require alterations to make the technique suitable for patient use. This paper presents simulation and experimental studies performed with both an intact human skull (which was cleaned from tissue attachments) and a complete human cadaver head (with contents and surrounding tissue intact) in order to investigate optimal locations for ultrasound probe placement during photoacoustic imaging and to test the feasibility of a modified light delivery design. Volumetric x-ray CT images of the human skull were used to create k-Wave simulations of acoustic wave propagation within this cranial environment. Photoacoustic imaging of the internal carotid artery (ICA) was performed with this same skull. Optical fibers emitting 750 nm light were inserted into the nasal cavity for ICA illumination. The ultrasound probe was placed on three optimal regions identified by simulations: (1) nasal cavity, (2) ocular region, and (3) 1 mm-thick temporal bone (which received 9.2%, 4.7%, and 3.8% of the initial photoacoustic pressure, respectively, in simulations). For these three probe locations, the contrast of the ICA in comparative experimental photoacoustic images was 27 dB, 19 dB, and 12 dB, respectively, with delay-and-sum (DAS) beamforming and laser pulse energies of 3 mJ, 5 mJ, and 4.2 mJ, respectively. Short-lag spatial coherence (SLSC) beamforming improved the contrast of these DAS images by up to 15 dB, enabled visualization of multiple cross-sectional ICA views in a single image, and enabled the use of lower laser energies. Combined simulation and experimental results with the emptied skull and >1 mm-thick temporal bone indicated that the ocular and nasal regions were more optimal probe locations than the temporal ultrasound probe location. Results from both the same skull filled with ovine brains and eyes and the human cadaver head validate the ocular region as an optimal acoustic window for our current system setup, producing high-contrast (i.e., up to 35 dB) DAS and SLSC photoacoustic images within the laser safety limits of a novel, compact light delivery system design that is independent of surgical tools (i.e., a fiber bundle with 6.8 mm outer diameter, 2 mm-diameter optical aperture, and an air gap spacing between the sphenoid bone and fiber tips). These results are promising toward identifying, quantifying, and overcoming major system design barriers to proceed with future patient testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100183
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Patient specific simulations
  • Photoacoustic imaging
  • Surgical guidance
  • Transcranial imaging
  • Ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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