Department of Engineering, ROMA TRE University, Via della Vasca Navale 62, Roma, Italy
To check or to prevent failures in ultrasound medical systems, some tests should be scheduled for both clinical suitability and technical functionality evaluation: among them, image quality assurance tests performed by technicians through ultrasound phantoms are widespread today and their results depend on issues related to scanner settings as well as phantom features and operator experience. In the present study variations on some features of the B-mode image were measured when the ultrasound probe is handled by the technician in a routine image quality test: ultrasound phantom images from two array transducers are processed to evaluate measurement dispersion in distance accuracy, high contrast spatial resolution and penetration depth when probe is handled by the operator. All measurements are done by means of an in-house image analysis software that minimizes errors due to operator’s visual acuity and subjective judgment while influences of ultrasound transducer position on quality assurance test results are estimated as expanded uncertainties on parameters above (measurement reproducibility at 95 percent confidence level): depending on the probe model, they ranged from ±0.1 to ±1.9 mm in high contrast spatial resolution, from ±0.1 to ±5.5 percent in distance measurements error and from ±1 to ±10 mm in maximum depth of signal visualization. Although numerical results are limited to the two examined probes, they confirm some predictions based on general working principles of diagnostic ultrasound systems: (a) measurements strongly depend on settings as well on phantoms features, probes and parameters investigated; (b) relative uncertainty due to probe manipulation on spatial resolution can be very high, i.e. from 10 to more than 30 percent; (c) Field of View settings must be taken into account for measurement reproducibility as well as Dynamic Range compression and phantom attenuation.
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