To improve non-invasively the specificity in the diagnosis of breast cancer after a positive screening mammography or doubt/suspicious ultrasound examination, the SOLUS project developed a multimodal imaging system that combines: Bmode ultrasound (US) scans (to assess morphology), Color Doppler (to visualize vascularization), shear-wave elastography (to measure stiffness), and time domain multi-wavelength diffuse optical tomography (to estimate tissue composition in terms of oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin, lipid, water, and collagen concentrations). The multimodal probe arranges 8 innovative photonic modules (optodes) around the US transducer, providing capability for optical tomographic reconstruction. For more accurate estimate of lesion composition, US-assessed morphological priors can be used to guide the optical reconstructions. Each optode comprises: i) 8 picosecond pulsed laser diodes with different wavelengths, covering a wide spectral range (635-1064 nm) for good probing of the different tissue constituents; ii) a large-area (variable, up to 8.6 mm2 ) fast-gated digital Silicon Photomultiplier; iii) the acquisition electronics to record the distribution of time-of-flight of the re-emitted photons. The optode is the basic element of the optical part of the system, but is also a stand-alone, ultra-compact (about 4 cm3 ) device for time domain multi-wavelength diffuse optics, with potential application in various fields.
Diffuse optical imaging can be used to probe highly scattering media like biological tissue down to a depth of few centimeters, with spatial resolution limited by light scattering. Its combination with ultrasound imaging can potentially lead to medical imaging systems with, for instance, high specificity in the examination of tumors. However, the presence of the ultrasound coupling gel between probe and tissue can have detrimental effects on the accuracy of optical imaging techniques. Here we present an experimental study on the effect of ultrasound coupling fluids on diffuse optical spectroscopy (DOS) and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS). We demonstrate on tissue-mimicking phantoms that the use of standard water-clear gels, providing a direct path for the light from the source to the detection point, can distort optical measurements generating strong underestimation of both the absorption and the reduced scattering coefficients in DOS measurements, as well as underestimation of the Brownian diffusion coefficient in DCS measurements. On the contrary, various turbid fluids demonstrate excellent performance in preventing this issue.