In ophthalmology, detecting the biomechanical properties of the cornea can provide valuable information about various corneal pathologies, including keratoconus and the phototoxic effects of ultraviolet radiation on the cornea. Also, the mechanical properties of the cornea can be used to evaluate the recovery from corneal refractive surgeries. Therefore, noninvasive and high-resolution estimation of the stiffness distribution in the cornea is important in ophthalmic diagnosis. The present study established a method for high-resolution acoustic-radiation-force-impulse (ARFI) imaging based on a dual-frequency confocal transducer in order to obtain a relative stiffness map, which was used to assess corneal sclerosis. An 11-MHz pushing element was used to induce localized displacements of tissue, which were monitored by a 48-MHz imaging element. Since the tissue displacements are directly correlated with the tissue elastic properties, the stiffness distribution in a tiny region of the cornea can be found by a mechanical B/D scan. The experimental system was verified using tissue-mimicking phantoms that included different geometric structures. Ex vivo cornea experiments were carried out using fresh porcine eyeballs. Corneas with localized sclerosis were created artificially by the injection of a formalin solution. The phantom experiments showed that the distributions of stiffness within different phantoms can be recognized clearly using ARFI imaging, and the measured lateral and axial resolutions of this imaging system were 177 and 153 \mu m, respectively. The ex vivo experimental results from ARFI imaging showed that a tiny region of localized sclerosis in the cornea could be distinguished. All of the obtained results demonstrate that high-resolution ARFI imaging has considerable potential for the clinical diagnosis of corneal sclerosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Computer Science Applications
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering