An excitation-reception collinear probe for ultrasonic, photoacoustic, and thermoacoustic tri-modal volumetric imaging
Imaging systems that integrate multiple modalities can reveal complementary anatomic and functional information as they exploit different contrast mechanisms, which have shown great application potential and advantages in preclinical studies. A portable and easy-to-use imaging probe will be more conducive to transfer to clinical practice. Here, we present a tri-modal ultrasonic (US), photoacoustic (PA), and thermoacoustic (TA) imaging system with an excitation-reception collinear probe. The acoustic field, light field, and electric field of the probe were designed to be coaxial, realizing homogeneous illumination and high-sensitivity detection at the same detection position. US images can provide detailed information about structures, PA images can delineate the morphology of blood vessels in tissues, and TA images can reveal dielectric properties of the tissues. Moreover, phantoms and in vivo human finger experiments were performed by the tri-modal imaging system to demonstrate its performance. The results show that the tri-modal imaging system with the proposed probe has the ability to detect small breast tumors with a radius of only 2.5 mm and visualize the anatomical structure of the finger in three dimensions. Our work confirms that the tri-modal imaging system equipped with a collinear probe can be applied to a variety of different scenarios, which lays a solid foundation for the application of the tri-modality system in clinical trials.