One of the leading causes of medical malpractice claims in emergency medicine is the misdiagnosis of the presence of
foreign bodies. Radiolucent foreign bodies are especially difficult to differentiate from surrounding soft tissue, gas, and
bone. Current imaging modalities employed for the detection of foreign bodies include: X-ray computed tomography,
magnetic resonance, and ultrasound; however, there is no consensus as to which modality is optimal for diagnosis.
Because many radiolucent foreign bodies have sufficient contrast for imaging in the optical domain, we are exploring the
use of laser-induced optoacoustic imaging for the detection of foreign bodies, especially in craniofacial injuries, in which
the foreign bodies are likely to lie within the penetration depth of visible and near infrared wavelengths. Tissue-simulating
phantoms containing various common foreign bodies have been constructed. Images of these phantoms have
been successfully generated using two laser-based optoacoustic imaging methods with different detection modalities. In
order to enhance the image contrast, common foreign bodies are being scanned over a wide range of wavelengths to obtain the spectroscopic properties of the materials commonly associated with these foreign bodies. This spectroscopic
characterization will help select specific wavelengths to be used for imaging specific objects and provide useful diagnostic data about the material properties of the object.