Polyacrylamide hydrogel phantoms for performance evaluation of multispectral photoacoustic imaging systems

As photoacoustic imaging (PAI) begins to mature and undergo clinical translation, there is a need for well-validated, standardized performance test methods to support device development, quality control, and regulatory evaluation. Despite recent progress, current PAI phantoms may not adequately replicate tissue light and sound transport over the full range of optical wavelengths and acoustic frequencies employed by reported PAI devices. Here we introduce polyacrylamide (PAA) hydrogel as a candidate material for fabricating stable phantoms with well-characterized optical and acoustic properties that are biologically relevant over a broad range of system design parameters. We evaluated suitability of PAA phantoms for conducting image quality assessment of three PAI systems with substantially different operating parameters including two commercial systems and a custom system. Imaging results indicated that appropriately tuned PAA phantoms are useful tools for assessing and comparing PAI system image quality. These phantoms may also facilitate future standardization of performance test methodology.

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