Photoacoustic image guidance and tissue characterization in cardiovascular applications
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Collectively, cardiovascular diseases continue to be the leading cause of death, across nations and across decades. Improved diagnostic imaging methods offer promise to alleviate the morbidity associated with these diseases. Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is one such method, poised to make a significant impact on cardiovascular imaging, both as a research tool, as well as a clinical imaging modality. Offering the potential of molecular imaging in real-time, PA methods have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept studies tracking myocyte calcium dynamics. These results open the door to non-invasive longitudinal assessment of cardiac electrophysiological function, with implications for drug and contrast agent development. PA image guidance has also been extended to the characterization of cardiac radiofrequency ablation lesions. This method has been demonstrated to utilize endogenous chromophore changes resulting from ablation for the generation of depth-resolved tissue characterization maps, capable of assessing lesion extent. The technique has been subsequently validated by assessing high-intensity focused ultrasound ablation lesions in myocardium, with the hope for offering thermographic capabilities as well. While PA imaging offers such promise in cardiac ablation procedures, it is also in the process of clinical translation for image guidance and characterization in coronary artery disease applications. Research has shown, using Monte Carlo optical modeling, that using a simple dual-wavelength PA imaging technique has great potential for successful visualization of atherosclerotic plaques across multiple tissue types and at clinically relevant multiple millimeters of depth. Collectively these results offer a suite of PA imaging tools with the potential for molecular and thermographic imaging across a broad range of cardiovascular applications.