A Deep Learning Approach to Photoacoustic Wavefront Localization in Deep-Tissue Medium

Kerrick Johnstonbaugh, Sumit Agrawal, Deepit Abhishek Durairaj, Christopher Fadden, Ajay Dangi, Sri Phani Krishna Karri, Sri Rajasekhar Kothapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Optical photons undergo strong scattering when propagating beyond 1-mm deep inside biological tissue. Finding the origin of these diffused optical wavefronts is a challenging task. Breaking through the optical diffusion limit, photoacoustic (PA) imaging (PAI) provides high-resolution and label-free images of human vasculature with high contrast due to the optical absorption of hemoglobin. In real-time PAI, an ultrasound transducer array detects PA signals, and B-mode images are formed by delay-and-sum or frequency-domain beamforming. Fundamentally, the strength of a PA signal is proportional to the local optical fluence, which decreases with the increasing depth due to depth-dependent optical attenuation. This limits the visibility of deep-tissue vasculature or other light-absorbing PA targets. To address this practical challenge, an encoder-decoder convolutional neural network architecture was constructed with custom modules and trained to identify the origin of the PA wavefronts inside an optically scattering deep-tissue medium. A comprehensive ablation study provides strong evidence that each module improves the localization accuracy. The network was trained on model-based simulated PA signals produced by 16 240 blood-vessel targets subjected to both optical scattering and Gaussian noise. Test results on 4600 simulated and five experimental PA signals collected under various scattering conditions show that the network can localize the targets with a mean error less than 30 microns (standard deviation 20.9 microns) for targets below 40-mm imaging depth and 1.06 mm (standard deviation 2.68 mm) for targets at a depth between 40 and 60 mm. The proposed work has broad applications such as diffused optical wavefront shaping, circulating melanoma cell detection, and real-time vascular surgeries (e.g., deep-vein thrombosis).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8951262
Pages (from-to)2649-2659
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE transactions on ultrasonics, ferroelectrics, and frequency control
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'A Deep Learning Approach to Photoacoustic Wavefront Localization in Deep-Tissue Medium'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this