Multi-modality imaging is beneficial for both preclinical and clinical applications as it enables complementary information from each modality to be obtained in a single procedure. In this paper, we report the design, fabrication, and testing of a novel tri-modal in vivo imaging system to exploit molecular/functional information from fluorescence (FL) and photoacoustic (PA) imaging as well as anatomical information from ultrasound (US) imaging. The same ultrasound transducer was used for both US and PA imaging, bringing the pulsed laser light into a compact probe by fiberoptic bundles. The FL subsystem is independent of the acoustic components but the front end that delivers and collects the light is physically integrated into the same probe. The tri-modal imaging system was implemented to provide each modality image in real time as well as co-registration of the images. The performance of the system was evaluated through phantom and in vivo animal experiments. The results demonstrate that combining the modalities does not significantly compromise the performance of each of the separate US, PA, and FL imaging techniques, while enabling multi-modality registration. The potential applications of this novel approach to multi-modality imaging range from preclinical research to clinical diagnosis, especially in detection/localization and surgical guidance of accessible solid tumors.

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