Ultrasound Image Formation in the Deep Learning Age
The success of diagnostic and interventional medical procedures is deeply rooted in the ability of modern imaging systems to deliver clear and interpretable information. After raw sensor data is received by ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging systems in particular, the beamforming process is often the first line of software defense against poor quality images. Yet, with today’s state-of-the-art beamformers, ultrasound and photoacoustic images remain challenged by channel noise, reflection artifacts, and acoustic clutter, which combine to complicate segmentation tasks and confuse overall image interpretation. These challenges exist because traditional beamforming and image formations steps are based on flawed assumptions in the presence of significant inter- and intrapatient variations. In this talk, I will introduce the PULSE Lab’s novel alternative to beamforming, which improves ultrasound and photoacoustic image quality by learning from the physics of sound wave propagation. We replace traditional beamforming steps with deep neural networks that only display segmented details and structures of interest. Our pioneering image formation methods hold promise for robotic tracking tasks, visualization and visual servoing of surgical tool tips, and assessment of relative distances between the surgical tool and nearby critical structures (e.g., major blood vessels and nerves that if injured will cause severe complications, paralysis, or patient death).