A phase-change contrast agent (PCCA) can be activated from a liquid (nanodroplet) state using pulsed ultrasound (US) energy to form a larger highly echogenic microbubble (MB). PCCA activation is dependent on the ambient pressure of the surrounding media, so any increase in hydrostatic pressure demands higher US energies to phase transition. In this paper, the authors explore this basic relationship as a potential direction for noninvasive pressure measurement and foundation of a unique technology the authors are developing termed tumor interstitial pressure estimation using ultrasound (TIPE-US). TIPE-US was developed using a programmable US research scanner. A custom scan sequence interleaved pulsed US transmissions for both PCCA activation and detection. An automated US pressure sweep was applied, and US images were acquired at each increment. Various hydrostatic pressures were applied to PCCA samples. Pressurized samples were imaged using the TIPE-US system. The activation threshold required to convert PCCA from the liquid to gaseous state was recorded for various US and PCCA conditions. Given the relationship between the hydrostatic pressure applied to the PCCA and US energy needed for activation, phase transition can be used as a surrogate of hydrostatic pressure. Consistent with theoretical predictions, the PCCA activation threshold was lowered with increasing sample temperature and by decreasing the frequency of US exposure, but it was not impacted by PCCA concentration.

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