(19)
(11)EP 3 518 769 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
11.12.2019 Bulletin 2019/50

(21)Application number: 17777196.1

(22)Date of filing:  18.09.2017
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
A61B 8/06(2006.01)
A61B 8/00(2006.01)
A61B 8/12(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2017/073380
(87)International publication number:
WO 2018/059976 (05.04.2018 Gazette  2018/14)

(54)

BLOOD FLOW DETERMINATION APPARATUS

BLUTFLUSSBESTIMMUNGSVORRICHTUNG

APPAREIL DE DÉTERMINATION DE FLUX SANGUIN


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 28.09.2016 EP 16191056

(43)Date of publication of application:
07.08.2019 Bulletin 2019/32

(73)Proprietor: Koninklijke Philips N.V.
5656 AE Eindhoven (NL)

(72)Inventors:
  • HAASE, Christian
    5656 AE Eindhoven (NL)
  • GRASS, Michael
    5656 AE Eindhoven (NL)

(74)Representative: Fairley, Peter Douglas 
Philips Intellectual Property & Standards High Tech Campus 5
5656 AE Eindhoven
5656 AE Eindhoven (NL)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A1- 2013 317 359
  
  • WANG L M ET AL: "Contrast medium assisted fluid flow measurements", IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ULTRASONICS, FERROELECTRICS AND FREQUENCY CONTROL, IEEE, US, vol. 42, no. 2, 1 March 1995 (1995-03-01), pages 309-315, XP011439213, ISSN: 0885-3010, DOI: 10.1109/58.365244
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

FIELD OF THE INVENTION



[0001] The invention relates to a blood flow determination apparatus, method and computer program. The invention relates further to a blood flow determination system comprising the blood flow determination apparatus, a fluid introduction unit and an ultrasound unit, and to an angiography image generation system for generating an angiography image, wherein the angiography image generation system comprises the blood flow determination system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0002] WO 2013/177527 A1 discloses a system with a catheter assembly which includes an intravascular measuring device having a measurement module configured to emit and receive energy and to generate measurement data, wherein the catheter assembly is configured to introduce a quantity of fluid into a vessel of a patient. The system further comprises a measurement engine in communication with the intravascular measuring device, wherein the measurement engine is configured to receive the measurement data from the intravascular measuring device, to determine a start time associated with the introduction of the quantity of fluid into a predetermined portion of the vessel, and to determine an end time based on the measurement data. The measurement engine is further configured to calculate an elapsed time based on the start time and the end time and to calculate a blood flow velocity through the vessel based on the elapsed time and a travel distance of the quantity of fluid during the elapsed time. Since the quality of determining the travel distance and/or the elapsed time is often not very high, the accuracy of determining the blood flow velocity can be relatively low. Moreover, in many applications the volumetric blood flow rate is more relevant than the blood flow velocity.

[0003] US 2013/317359 A1 discloses a blood flow determination apparatus comprising:
  • a speckle density determination unit for determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of a blood vessel, which has been generated at an imaging location being behind an introduction location with respect to a flow direction of blood within the blood vessel, wherein at the introduction location a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel,
  • a blood flow rate determination unit for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value.


[0004] The disclosure of this document can be considered to form the closest prior art for the invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0005] It is an object of the present invention to provide a blood flow determination apparatus, method and computer program which allow an accurate determination of a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate within a blood vessel. It is a further object of the present invention to provide a blood flow determination system comprising the blood flow determination apparatus, a fluid introduction unit and an ultrasound unit, and to provide an angiography image generation system for generating an angiography image which comprises the blood flow determination system.

[0006] In a first aspect of the present invention a blood flow determination apparatus is presented, wherein the blood flow determination apparatus comprises:
  • a speckle density determination unit for determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of a blood vessel, which has been generated at an imaging location being behind an introduction location with respect to a flow direction of blood within the blood vessel, wherein at the introduction location a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel with a known volumetric fluid flow rate,
  • a blood flow rate determination unit for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate.


[0007] Since the blood flow determination unit is adapted to determine the blood flow value based on the determined speckle density value which is indicative of the level of the speckle density, i.e. the amount of the speckle density, in the ultrasound image and based on the known volumetric fluid flow rate and since the speckle density value in the ultrasound image can be determined very accurately, the blood flow can be determined with an improved accuracy. In particular, it is not necessary to determine, for instance, an elapsed time and a travel distance for determining the blood flow value.

[0008] The blood flow rate determination unit is preferentially adapted to use directly the speckle density value for determining the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate, i.e. preferentially the speckle density value itself is used for this determination. For instance, a function can be provided which defines the blood flow value based on the speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate. This particularly means that the speckle density value is preferentially not used for detecting a time at which the speckle density decreases or increases in an ultrasound image by, for instance, thresholding the speckle density value and that this time is used for determining the blood flow value. Moreover, the known volumetric fluid flow rate is preferentially a volumetric fluid flow rate of a continuous introduction of the fluid into the blood vessel, i.e. preferentially the fluid is continuously introduced and not, for instance, as a fluid bolus only. The volumetric fluid flow rate is preferentially constant.

[0009] The speckle density determination unit is preferentially adapted to determine the speckle density value based on the image values of the ultrasound image. In particular, the speckle density determination unit is adapted to determine the speckle density value by adding the image values, which might be grey values, within a region of the ultrasound image, which corresponds to the inner lumen of the blood vessel, and by dividing the resulting sum by the area of this region.

[0010] In an embodiment the blood flow determination apparatus further comprises a speckle density providing unit for providing a blood speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing blood and for providing a fluid speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing the fluid, wherein the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to determine the blood flow value also based on the blood speckle density value and the fluid speckle density value. In particular, the speckle density providing unit is adapted to determine the blood speckle density value based on a further ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel, which has been generated at a location at which the inner lumen of the blood vessel only contains blood. For instance, the further ultrasound image can be generated at the imaging location, before the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel, in order to generate the further ultrasound image at a location at which the inner lumen of the blood vessel only contains blood. The speckle density providing unit can also be a storing unit in which the blood speckle density value is stored already and from which the blood speckle density value can be retrieved for providing the same. Also the fluid speckle density value can be stored already in the speckle density providing unit, in order to allow the speckle density providing unit to provide the stored fluid speckle density value. The speckle density providing unit can also be adapted to receive an ultrasound image just showing the fluid and to determine the fluid speckle density value based on this ultrasound image. By using the blood speckle density value and the fluid speckle density value for determining the blood flow the accuracy of determining the blood flow can be further increased.

[0011] Preferentially, the speckle density determination unit is adapted to determine the speckle density value such that it is indicative of an average of levels of speckle densities in at least some of several ultrasound images which have been generated for different times at the imaging location, while the fluid has been continuously introduced into the blood vessel. Thus, a fluid introduction unit can be adapted to continuously introduce the fluid into the blood vessel with the known volumetric fluid flow rate, while an ultrasound unit generates several ultrasound images for different times at the imaging location, and the speckle density value can be determined such that it is indicative of an average of levels of speckle densities in some or all of these several ultrasound images. This temporal averaging can lead to a further improved accuracy of determining the speckle density value and hence of the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate.

[0012] The speckle density determination unit is preferentially adapted to consider the entire region of the ultrasound image, which corresponds to the inner lumen of the blood vessel, for determining the speckle density value. Thus, a relatively large region of the ultrasound image is used for determining the speckle density value, thereby reducing the likelihood that generally possible local inaccuracies diminish the accuracy of the determination of the speckle density value. Also this allows for an improved accuracy of determining the speckle density value and hence of the blood flow value.

[0013] It is further preferred that the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to use a non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value. In particular, the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to use following non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value:

wherein QB denotes the blood flow value to be determined, QC denotes the volumetric fluid flow rate at the introduction location, θM denotes a scatterer concentration value being indicative of the concentration of ultrasound scatterers in the mix of blood and fluid in the inner lumen of the blood vessel at the imaging location, θC denotes a fluid scatterer concentration value being indicative of the concentration of ultrasound scatterers in the fluid, θB denotes a blood scatterer concentration value being indicative of the concentration of ultrasound scatterers in the fluid, dM denotes the speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel which has been generated at the imaging location, dC denotes the provided fluid speckle density value and dB denotes the provided blood density speckle value. Moreover, f(d) is a non-linear function relating an ultrasound speckle density value d to a corresponding scatterer concentration θ. This function can be, for instance, a phenomenologically calibrated function or can be derived from analytical calculations or numerical computer models. By using the non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value, particularly between the scatterer concentration and the speckle density value, the accuracy of determining the blood flow value can be further increased.

[0014] In a further aspect of the present invention a blood flow determination system is presented, wherein the blood flow determination system comprises:
  • a fluid introduction unit for introducing a fluid into the blood vessel with a volumetric fluid flow rate at an introduction location,
  • an ultrasound unit for generating an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of the blood vessel at an imaging location being behind the introduction location with respect to a flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel, and
  • blood flow determination apparatus for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate within a blood vessel as defined in claim 1. Preferentially, the ultrasound unit comprises an intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) probe for generating the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel.


[0015] In an embodiment the fluid introduction unit comprises a tube with several tube openings located along the length of the tube for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel at several introduction locations with a respective known volumetric fluid flow rate, wherein the ultrasound unit is adapted to determine for each introduction location a respective ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel at an imaging location being behind the respective introduction location with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel, wherein the speckle density determination unit is adapted to determine for each ultrasound image a respective speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the respective ultrasound image, and wherein the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to determine several blood flow values being indicative of several volumetric blood flow rates based on the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rates. This allows for a determination of several blood flow values along the length of the tube and hence along the length of the blood vessel, in which the tube is located, without necessarily requiring a movement of the tube. It is therefore possible to accurately determine a spatial distribution of blood flow in a relatively simple way.

[0016] The ultrasound unit can comprise an IVUS probe, which is arrangable behind all of the several tube openings with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel. In this case the fluid introduction unit can be adapted to temporarily sequentially introduce the fluid into the blood vessel at the several introduction locations such that at a respective point in time the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel at a single introduction location only, wherein the ultrasound unit with the IVUS probe can be adapted to determine at the respective point in time a respective ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel at an imaging location, at which the IVUS probe is located and which is arranged behind all of the several tube openings, in order to determine for the respective introduction location the respective ultrasound image.

[0017] In a further embodiment the ultrasound unit is adapted to determine several ultrasound images at several imaging locations, wherein behind each introduction location a respective imaging location is arranged, i.e. pairs of a respective introduction location and a respective imaging location are arranged behind each other. Also in this case the speckle density determination unit is adapted to determine for each ultrasound image a respective speckle density value being indicative of the respective level of the speckle density in the respective ultrasound image, wherein the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to determine several blood flow values being indicative of several volumetric blood flow rates based on the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rates. In particular, for determining a blood flow value for a respective introduction location a) the speckle density value determined for the ultrasound image generated at the imaging location immediately behind the introduction location, b) the volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel at the respective introduction location and, if one or several introduction locations are arranged in front of the respective introduction location for which the respective blood flow value is to be determined, c) also the one or more volumetric fluid flow rates with which the fluid has been introduced at the one or several previous introduction location are considered. In this embodiment the fluid can be introduced through the several tube openings into the blood vessel simultaneously, in order to determine a spatial distribution of blood flow values along the length of the tube and hence along the length of the blood vessel.

[0018] In an embodiment the ultrasound unit comprises several IVUS probes for generating several ultrasound images of the inner lumen of the blood vessel at several imaging locations being behind the introduction location with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel, wherein the speckle density determination unit is adapted to determine several speckle density values being indicative of the levels of the speckle densities of the respective ultrasound images and wherein the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to determine the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate based on an average of the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rate. This can further improve the quality of the determined blood flow value.

[0019] In a further aspect of the present invention an angiography image generation system for generating an angiography image is presented, wherein the angiography image generation system comprises:
  • a blood flow determination system as defined in claim 8, wherein the fluid introduction unit is adapted to introduce a contrast agent as the fluid into the blood vessel,
  • a contrast agent imaging unit for generating an image of the contrast agent within the blood vessel, in order to generate the angiography image.


[0020] Thus, the same fluid can be used for determining the blood flow value and for generating the angiography image, thereby allowing for an accurate determination of the blood flow value and a generation of an angiography image in a same procedure. Moreover, the time needed for accurately determining the blood flow value and for generating the angiography image can thereby be significantly reduced.

[0021] In a further aspect of the present invention a blood flow determination method is presented, wherein the blood flow determination method comprises:
  • determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of a blood vessel, which has been generated at an imaging location being behind an introduction location with respect to a flow direction of blood within the blood vessel, wherein at the introduction location a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel with a known volumetric fluid flow rate, by a speckle density determination unit, and
  • determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate by a blood flow rate determination unit.


[0022] In another aspect of the present invention an angiography image generation method is presented, wherein the angiography image generation method comprises:
  • carrying out the steps of the blood flow determination method as defined in claim 13, wherein a contrast agent is introduced into the blood vessel as the fluid,
  • generating an image of the contrast agent within the blood vessel by a contrast agent imaging unit, in order to generate the angiography image.


[0023] In a further aspect of the present invention a blood flow determination computer program is presented, wherein the blood flow determination computer program comprises program code means for causing a blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1 to carry out the blood flow determination method as defined in claim 13, when the computer program is run on the blood flow determination apparatus.

[0024] It shall be understood that the blood flow determination apparatus of claim 1, the blood flow determination system of claim 8, the angiography image generation system of claim 12, the blood flow determination method of claim 13, the angiography image generation method of claim 14 and the blood flow determination computer program of claim 15 have similar and/or identical preferred embodiments, in particular, as defined in the dependent claims.

[0025] It shall be understood that a preferred embodiment of the present invention can also be any combination of the dependent claims or above embodiments with the respective independent claim.

[0026] These and other aspects of the invention will be apparent from and elucidated with reference to the embodiments described hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0027] In the following drawings:

Fig. 1 shows schematically and exemplarily an embodiment of an angiography image generation system,

Fig. 2 shows schematically and exemplarily a distal end of a tube for introducing a fluid into a blood vessel and an IVUS probe within the blood vessel,

Fig. 3 shows schematically and exemplarily the distal end of the tube and the IVUS probe before introducing the fluid into the blood vessel,

Fig. 4 shows a flowchart exemplarily illustrating an embodiment of an angiography image generation method for generating an angiography image,

Fig. 5 shows schematically and exemplarily an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of a blood vessel,

Fig. 6 illustrates schematically and exemplarily a speckle density over time for two different volumetric blood flow rates,

Fig. 7 illustrates schematically and exemplarily a dependence of a ratio of a) a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density of a mixture of blood and saline and b) a blood speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density of blood on a blood flow value to be determined,

Fig. 8 shows schematically and exemplarily several IVUS probes within a blood vessel,

Figs. 9 and 10 show schematically and exemplarily an embodiment of a tube for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel at several introduction locations, and

Fig. 11 shows schematically and exemplarily a further embodiment of a tube for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel at several introduction locations.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS



[0028] Fig. 1 shows schematically and exemplarily an embodiment of an angiography image generation system 1 for generating an angiography image. The angiography image generation system 1 comprises an x-ray device 40 including an x-ray source 41 for emitting x-rays 43 and an x-ray detector 44 for generating x-ray signals being indicative of the intensity of the x-rays 43 after having traversed a patient 3 lying on a patient table 2. The x-ray source 41 and the x-ray detector 44 are attached to opposing ends of a C-arm 42 which is movable with respect to the patient 3. In particular, the C-arm 42 is rotatable around a longitudinal axis of the patient 3, in order to allow the x-ray device 40 to generate x-ray signals being indicative of the intensity of the x-rays 43 after having traversed the patient 3 in different directions.

[0029] The angiography image generation system 1 further comprises a tube 4 which is preferentially a catheter and which is connected to a fluid pump 9, in order to introduce a fluid into a blood vessel 20 as schematically and exemplarily illustrated in Fig. 2. In Fig. 2 the arrows 25 indicate the flow of the introduced fluid and the arrows 24 indicate the flow of the blood within the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20. Since the tube 4 and the fluid pump 9 are adapted to introduce the fluid into the blood vessel 20, the tube 4 and the fluid pump 9 can be regarded as being components of a fluid introduction unit.

[0030] The introduced fluid is a contrast agent such that the x-ray signals generated by the x-ray device 40 are indicative of the contrast agent within the blood vessel 20. The angiography image generation system 1 further comprises an x-ray signals processing unit 11 for processing the x-ray signals such that an angiography image is generated which shows the contrast agent within the blood vessel 20. The x-ray signals processing unit 11 can be adapted to use known computed tomography reconstruction techniques for generating the angiography image. However, the x-ray signals processing unit 11 can also be adapted to just provide a two-dimensional projection image as the angiography image in which the contrast agent is shown within the blood vessel 20. Since the x-ray device 40 and the x-ray signals processing unit 11 are adapted to generate the angiography image showing the contrast agent, the x-ray device 40 and the x-ray signals processing unit 11 can be regarded as being components of a contrast agent imaging unit.

[0031] The angiography image generation system 1 further comprises an IVUS probe 30 attached to a distal tip of a guiding element 31 being preferentially a guidewire. The IVUS probe 30 generates ultrasound signals which are processed by an ultrasound signals processing unit 10 such that an ultrasound image can be generated at an imaging location 22 at which the IVUS probe 30 is located. The imaging location 22 is arranged behind an introduction location 23, at which the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel 20, with respect to the blood flow direction 24. Since the IVUS probe 30 and the ultrasound signals processing unit 10 are adapted to generate an ultrasound image of the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20 at the imaging location 22, the IVUS probe 30 and the ultrasound signals processing unit 10 can be regarded as being components of an ultrasound unit for generating an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of the blood vessel at the imaging location.

[0032] The angiography image generation system 1 further comprises a speckle density providing unit 6 for providing a blood speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing blood and for providing a fluid speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing the fluid. In this embodiment the fluid speckle density value is stored in the speckle density providing unit 6 such that the speckle density providing unit 6 can just provide the stored fluid speckle density value. Also the blood speckle density value can be stored in the speckle density providing unit 6 such that also this value can be provided by the speckle density providing unit 6. However, the speckle density providing unit 6 can also be adapted to determine the blood speckle density value based on an ultrasound image showing an inner lumen of a blood vessel filled only with blood. In particular, the IVUS probe 30 and the ultrasound signals processing unit 10 can be adapted to generate an ultrasound image at the imaging location 22, before the fluid is introduced into the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20. Such a situation, in which only blood flows within the blood vessel 20, is schematically and exemplarily illustrated in Fig. 3. Based on this ultrasound image the speckle density providing unit 6 can determine the blood speckle density value.

[0033] The angiography image generation system 1 further comprises a speckle density determination unit 7 for determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20 which has been generated at the imaging location 22, after the fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel 20 at the introduction location 23. The speckle density value determined by the speckle density determination unit 7 is therefore a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image showing a mixture of the blood and the introduced fluid. Preferentially, the fluid pump 9 continuously introduces the fluid into the blood vessel 20 with a volumetric fluid flow rate which is preferentially constant. The IVUS probe 30 and the ultrasound signals processing unit 10 can be adapted to generate several ultrasound images over time at the imaging location 22, while the fluid is continuously introduced into the blood vessel 20. Moreover, the speckle density determination unit 7 can be adapted to determine the speckle density value such that it is indicative of an average of levels of speckle densities in some or all of these ultrasound images which have been generated for different times at the imaging location 22, while the fluid has been continuously introduced into the blood vessel 20. Thus, the speckle density determination unit 7 can be adapted to determine the speckle density value such that it corresponds to a temporal average. Moreover, the speckle density determination unit 7 is preferentially adapted to consider the entire region of the respective ultrasound image, which corresponds to the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20, for determining the speckle density value. The speckle density value can therefore also be regarded as being a spatial average value.

[0034] The angiography image generation system further comprises a blood flow rate determination unit 8 for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel 20. Preferentially, the blood flow rate determination unit 8 is adapted to use a non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value. In particular, the blood flow rate determination unit 8 is adapted to use following equation as the non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value:

wherein QB denotes the blood flow value to be determined, QC denotes the volumetric fluid flow rate at the introduction location, dM denotes the speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel which has been generated at the imaging location, dC denotes the provided fluid speckle density value, dB denotes the provided blood density speckle value, and f(d) denotes a non-linear function relating an ultrasound speckle density value d to a corresponding scatterer concentration.

[0035] The used speckle density value can be, as mentioned above, obtained by spatial and temporal averaging. The determination of the blood flow value based on the spatial and temporal averaging can make this determination more robust against incomplete mixing and independent of the placement of the IVUS probe within the blood vessel.

[0036] Since the speckle density providing unit 6, the speckle density determination unit 7 and the blood flow rate determination unit 8 are adapted to determine the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate, these units can be regarded as being units of a blood flow determination apparatus 5. Moreover, this blood flow determination apparatus 5 together with the fluid introduction unit 4, 9 and the ultrasound unit 10, 30 can be regarded as being components of a blood flow determination system which in turn can be regarded as being a component of the angiography image generation system 1.

[0037] The system 1 further comprises an input unit 12 like a keyboard, a computer mouse, a touchpad et cetera for, for instance, entering a start or stop command for starting or stopping the procedure for determining the blood flow value or for providing another input to the system 1. Moreover, the system 1 comprises a display 13 for showing the determined blood flow value and the generated angiography image.

[0038] In the following an embodiment of an angiography image generation method for generating an angiography image will be exemplarily described with reference to a flowchart shown in Fig. 4.

[0039] While continuously introducing the fluid into the blood vessel 20 with a constant volumetric fluid flow rate at the introduction location 23 by using the fluid introduction unit 4, 10, in step 101 the ultrasound unit 10, 30 generates an ultrasound image of the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20 at the imaging location 22. In step 102 the speckle density determination unit 7 determines a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20, which has been generated at the imaging location 22 in step 101. In step 103 the speckle density providing unit 6 provides a blood speckle density value and a fluid speckle density value, and in step 104 the blood flow rate determination unit 8 determines a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the speckle density value determined in step 102, the blood speckle density value and the fluid speckle density value provided in step 103 and the volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid is continuously introduced into the blood vessel 20.

[0040] The introduced fluid is a contrast agent and in step 105 the contrast agent imaging unit 11, 40 generates an image of the contrast agent within the blood vessel 20, in order to generate an angiography image. In step 106 the determined blood flow value and the generated angiography image are shown on the display 13.

[0041] Steps 101 to 104 can be regarded as being steps of a blood flow determination method. Moreover, the sequence of the steps can be different. For instance, step 105 can be performed at any time before step 106, as long as the contrast agent is within the blood vessel 20. Moreover, step 103 might be performed between steps 101 and 102 or before step 101.

[0042] The system and method described above with reference to Figs. 1 to 4 allow for a determination of intravascular volumetric blood flow, i.e. the intravascular volumetric blood flow rate, based on the ultrasound speckle concentration, i.e. the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image, in blood infused with a fluid being a contrast agent. The speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image can be determined by using the intra-arterial signal strength of intravascular ultrasound.

[0043] The intravascular determination of blood flow volume, i.e. of the volumetric blood flow rate, provides important insights for examining the hemodynamic system. Particularly for assessing the functional impact of a coronary artery stenosis and for diagnosing the state of the coronary microvasculature the intravascular flow determination is very useful.

[0044] The angiography image can be used to determine the geometry of the blood vessel, i.e., for instance, the x-ray signals processing unit or another unit can be adapted to determine the geometry of the blood vessel based on the generated angiography image. Also the ultrasound images generated by using the IVUS probe can be used to determine the geometry of the blood vessel, especially of vessel cross sections and of the vessel wall. The ultrasound images can also be used to determine geometrical information about an expanded stent after it has been inserted during an interventional procedure. This geometrical information, which can be determined based on the ultrasound images, can be determined by the ultrasound signals processing unit or by another unit. The geometrical information obtained from the angiography image and/or the geometrical information obtained from the ultrasound images can be used for intravascular navigation, for diagnosis and/or for treatment planning.

[0045] The system and method described above with reference to Figs. 1 to 4 allow for a determination of a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on changes in an IVUS signal, i.e. in an ultrasound image generated by using an IVUS probe, during the infusion of the contrast agent. The intensity of the IVUS signal, i.e. the image values of the ultrasound image generated by using the IVUS probe, in blood depends on the ultrasound scatterer concentration within the blood. The infusion of the contrast agent with a lower or higher scatterer concentration than blood changes the overall scatterer concentration of the blood/contrast agent mixture and hence the speckle density in the corresponding ultrasound image, wherein this change can be used for determining the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate as described above with reference to Figs. 1 to 4.

[0046] Fig. 5 shows schematically and exemplarily an ultrasound image generated by the ultrasound unit, wherein in this ultrasound image a first line 61 indicates a border between a vessel wall and a plaque area and a second line 62 indicates a border between the plaque area and the inner lumen. The speckle density determination unit is preferentially adapted to determine a speckle density value being indicative of a level of speckle density based on the region of the respective ultrasound image which is enclosed by the second line 62. The speckle density determination unit can be adapted to automatically or semiautomatically segment the inner lumen of the blood vessel, i.e. to generate the second line 62, and to then determine the speckle density value based on the part of the ultrasound image within the second line 62.

[0047] Although in above described embodiments for determining the volumetric blood flow rate a contrast agent has been used which is visible in an x-ray image, in another embodiment another fluid can be used for determining the volumetric blood flow rate. For instance, saline can be used as fluid for determining the volumetric blood flow rate. Since saline substantially does not show speckles in an ultrasound image, in this case the fluid speckle density value dC can be zero. The mixing ratio of saline in blood defines the combined ultrasound scatterer concentration, i.e. the speckle density value being indicative of the level of speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel, which has been generated at the imaging location being behind the introduction location with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel. In particular, the speckle density value can be determined as the echogenicity of the ultrasound image, which is preferentially an IVUS image, inside the inner lumen of the blood vessel. The blood flow rate determination unit can then determine the volumetric blood flow rate based on a known saline injection rate, i.e. the known volumetric saline flow rate, and the ultrasound-based concentration or density measurement, i.e. the speckle density value.

[0048] Fig. 6 shows schematically and exemplarily speckle density d in arbitrary units over time t in arbitrary units for two different volumetric blood flow rates. In this figure the line 70 corresponds to a larger volumetric blood flow rate and the line 71 corresponds to a smaller volumetric blood flow rate, wherein the fluid is saline and before and after the introduction of the saline fluid the speckle density value is the blood speckle density value dB. For the first line 70 the speckle density value dM1 of the mixture of the saline fluid and the blood indicates a level being larger than the level of the speckle density indicated by the speckle density value dM2 of the second case illustrated by the second line 71. As is illustrated in this figure, in accordance with the invention the level or depth of the speckle density is used for determining the volumetric blood flow rate. In this embodiment, the respective speckle density value is determined by averaging the image values of the respective ultrasound image located within a region of the ultrasound image which corresponds to the inner lumen of the blood vessel. The speckle density is therefore an average echogenicity signal.

[0049] Although in an above described embodiment the blood flow rate determination unit is adapted to use a non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value, particularly a certain non-linear equation, in other embodiments also other relations between the blood flow rate to be determined and the speckle density value can be used for determining the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate. For instance, a relation between a) the ratio between i) the speckle density value dM being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel showing the mixture of the fluid and the blood and ii) the blood speckle density value dB and b) the blood flow value QB to be determined can be used, particularly as schematically and exemplarily illustrated in Fig. 6. For example, for each volumetric fluid flow rate, with which the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel, a respective relation between this ratio and the blood flow value to be determined can be provided and the respective relation, which has been determined for the respective volumetric fluid flow rate, can be used together with the determined speckle density value dM and the known blood speckle density value dB for determining the blood flow value QB.

[0050] In above described embodiments the inflow of the fluid is controlled in relation to the blood flow, i.e. the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel with a known volumetric fluid flow rate. This can lead to a reduction of the speckle density value in the ultrasound image, i.e. to a drop of the speckle density value. Based on this reduced speckle density value the blood flow rate can be determined. Thus, the speckle density value can be determined based on how deep the measured speckle density curve is, i.e. the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image can be determined, in order to provide the speckle density value, without looking how wide the curve is. For instance, for determining the blood flow value not the width of the broad minima of the lines 70, 71 shown in Fig. 5 is used, but the depths or levels of these minima.

[0051] Although in above described embodiments the angiography image generation system comprises an x-ray device with a C-arm for generating the angiography image, in other embodiments another x-ray device can be used for generating the angiography image like a computed tomography device.

[0052] Although in above described embodiments the same fluid is used for generating the angiography image and for determining the blood flow value, in other embodiments different fluids can be used for performing these tasks, i.e., for instance, a first fluid being a contrast agent can be used for generating the angiography image and a second fluid like saline can be used for determining the blood flow value.

[0053] Although in above described embodiments the blood flow determination is combined with angiography, the blood flow determination can also be carried out separately, i.e. without carrying out an angiography procedure. In particular, the blood flow determination apparatus and the blood flow determination system can be stand-alone systems which do not need to be integrated with another system like the angiography image generation system.

[0054] Although in above described embodiments the ultrasound unit comprises a single IVUS probe only, in other embodiments the ultrasound unit can comprise several IVUS probes 30 for generating several ultrasound images of the inner lumen 21 of the blood vessel 20 at several imaging locations 22 being behind the introduction location 23 with respect to the flow direction 24 of the blood within the blood vessel 20 as schematically and exemplarily illustrated in Fig. 8. In this case the speckle density determination unit 7 can be adapted to determine several speckle density values being indicative of the levels of the speckle densities of the respective ultrasound images and the blood flow rate determination unit 8 can be adapted to determine a blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate based on an average of the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid is introduced into the blood vessel. This can further improve the quality of the determined blood flow value.

[0055] In a further embodiment the introduction unit comprises an outer tube 204, which is preferentially a catheter, and an inner tube 205, which might have a stiffness being smaller than the stiffness of the outer tube 204, as schematically and exemplarily shown in Figs. 9 and 10. The inner tube 205 can be moved out of a distal opening of the outer tube 204 and comprises several tube openings 206 located along the length of the inner tube 205 for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel 20 at several introduction locations with a respective known volumetric fluid flow rate. At each introduction location the respective known volumetric fluid flow rate can be the same. However, it is also possible that the volumetric fluid flow rate is different at different introduction locations.

[0056] Each tube opening 206 can be connected to a respective fluid pump via a respective further tube within the inner tube 205, in order to provide the fluid at the respective tube opening 206 and hence at the respective introduction location.

[0057] Within the outer tube 204 and the inner tube 205 a guiding element 31 being preferentially a guidewire is located, wherein an IVUS probe 30 is attached to a distal tip of the guiding element 31. The IVUS probe 30 is used for generating an ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel 20 at an imaging location being behind all introduction locations 206 with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel 20. In this embodiment the fluid pumps are adapted to temporarily sequentially introduce the fluid into the blood vessel 20 at the different introduction locations, in order to allow for a generation of a respective ultrasound image by using the IVUS probe 30, which is influenced by the introduction of the fluid at the respective introduction location only. In this way for each introduction location a respective ultrasound image can be generated.

[0058] In Fig. 9 the arrows 210 indicate the introduction of the fluid into the blood vessel 20 at a first introduction location such that in this situation the IVUS probe 30 is used for generating an ultrasound image for this first introduction location. In Fig. 10 the arrows 211 indicate an introduction of the fluid at a second introduction location such that the ultrasound image generated by using the IVUS probe 30 corresponds to this second introduction location.

[0059] In this embodiment the speckle density determination unit 7 is adapted to determine for each ultrasound image a respective speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the respective ultrasound image, i.e. for each ultrasound image and hence for each introduction location, a respective speckle density value is determined. The blood flow rate determination unit 8 is adapted to determine several blood flow values being indicative of several volumetric blood flow rates based on the determined several speckle density values and the respective volumetric fluid flow rate. Thus, for each introduction location a volumetric blood flow rate is determined based on the speckle density value, which has been determined for the respective introduction location, and based on the volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel 20 at the respective introduction location.

[0060] Fig. 11 schematically and exemplarily shows a further embodiment of an inner tube 305 within the outer tube 204, which is preferentially a catheter, wherein the inner tube 305 can be moved out of the outer tube 204 such that a distal part of the inner tube 305 is outside of the outer tube 204. Also in this embodiment the inner tube 305 comprises several tube openings 306 located along the length of the tube 305 for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel 20 at several introduction locations with a respective known volumetric fluid flow rate. Moreover, also in this embodiment the inner tube 305 can have a stiffness being lower than the stiffness of the outer tube 204. Furthermore, also in this embodiment each tube opening 306 can be connected to a respective fluid pump via a respective tube inside the inner tube 305, in order to provide the fluid at the different tube openings 306. Within the inner tube 305 a guiding element 31 being preferentially a guidewire is arranged. Behind each tube opening 306 a respective IVUS probe 330 is arranged for generating ultrasound images at imaging locations behind the respective introduction locations.

[0061] The speckle density determination unit 7 is adapted to determine for each ultrasound image a respective speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the respective ultrasound image such that for each imaging location a respective speckle density value is determined. The blood flow rate determination unit 8 is adapted to determine several blood flow values being indicative of several volumetric blood flow rates based on the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rates. In particular, for a respective introduction location a respective blood flow value is determined based a) on the speckle density value of the ultrasound image generated at the imaging location immediately behind the respective introduction location, b) on the respective volumetric fluid flow rate with which the fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel at the respective introduction location and, if introduction locations are present in front of the respective introduction location, c) also on the volumetric fluid flow rates with which the fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel at the previous introduction locations.

[0062] Other variations to the disclosed embodiments can be understood and effected by those skilled in the art in practicing the claimed invention, from a study of the drawings, the disclosure, and the appended claims.

[0063] In the claims, the word "comprising" does not exclude other elements or steps, and the indefinite article "a" or "an" does not exclude a plurality.

[0064] A single unit or device may fulfill the functions of several items recited in the claims. The mere fact that certain measures are recited in mutually different dependent claims does not indicate that a combination of these measures cannot be used to advantage.

[0065] Operations like the determination of a speckle density value, the determination of a blood flow value, et cetera performed by one or several units or devices can be performed by any other number of units or devices. These operations and/or the control of the angiography image generation system in accordance with the angiography image generation method and/or the control of the blood flow determination apparatus in accordance with the blood flow determination method can be implemented as program code means of a computer program and/or as dedicated hardware.

[0066] A computer program may be stored/distributed on a suitable medium, such as an optical storage medium or a solid-state medium, supplied together with or as part of other hardware, but may also be distributed in other forms, such as via the Internet or other wired or wireless telecommunication systems.

[0067] Any reference signs in the claims should not be construed as limiting the scope.

[0068] The invention relates to a blood flow determination apparatus comprising a speckle density determination unit for determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen of a blood vessel, which has been generated at an imaging location being behind an introduction location at which a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel with a known volumetric fluid flow rate. A blood flow rate determination unit determines a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate. This allows determining the intravascular blood flow with an improved accuracy.


Claims

1. A blood flow determination apparatus comprising:

- a speckle density determination unit (7) for determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen (21) of a blood vessel (20), which has been generated at an imaging location (22) being behind an introduction location (23) with respect to a flow direction (24) of blood within the blood vessel (20), wherein at the introduction location (23) a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel (20) with a known volumetric fluid flow rate,

- a blood flow rate determination unit (8) for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate.


 
2. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the blood flow determination apparatus (5) further comprises a speckle density providing unit (6) for providing a blood speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing blood and for providing a fluid speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing the fluid, wherein the blood flow rate determination unit (8) is adapted to determine the blood flow value also based on the blood speckle density value and the fluid speckle density value.
 
3. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 2, wherein the speckle density providing unit (6) is adapted to determine the blood speckle density value based on a further ultrasound image of the inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20), which has been generated at a location at which the inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20) only contains blood.
 
4. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the speckle density determination unit (7) is adapted to determine the speckle density value such that it is indicative of an average of levels of speckle densities in at least some of several ultrasound images which have been generated for different times at the imaging location (22), while the fluid has been continuously introduced into the blood vessel (20).
 
5. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the speckle density determination unit (7) is adapted to consider the entire region of the ultrasound image, which corresponds to the inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20), for determining the speckle density value.
 
6. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1, wherein the blood flow rate determination unit (8) is adapted to use a non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value.
 
7. The blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 6, wherein the blood flow determination apparatus (5) further comprises a speckle density providing unit (6) for providing a blood speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing blood and for providing a fluid speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in an ultrasound image only showing the fluid, wherein the blood flow rate determination unit (8) is adapted to use following non-linear relation between the blood flow value to be determined and the speckle density value:

wherein QB denotes the blood flow value to be determined, QC denotes the volumetric fluid flow rate at the introduction location, dM denotes the speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel which has been generated at the imaging location, dC denotes the provided fluid speckle density value, dB denotes the provided blood density speckle value, and f(d) denotes a non-linear function relating an ultrasound speckle density value d to a corresponding scatterer concentration.
 
8. A blood flow determination system comprising:

- a fluid introduction unit (4, 9) for introducing a fluid into the blood vessel (20) with a volumetric fluid flow rate at an introduction location (23),

- an ultrasound unit (10, 30) for generating an ultrasound image of an inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20) at an imaging location (22) being behind the introduction location (23) with respect to a flow direction (24) of the blood within the blood vessel (20), and

- blood flow determination apparatus (5) for determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate within a blood vessel (20) as defined in claim 1.


 
9. The blood flow determination system as defined in claim 8, wherein the fluid introduction unit comprises a tube (205; 305) with several tube openings (206; 306) located along the length of the tube (205; 305) for introducing the fluid into the blood vessel (20) at several introduction locations with a respective known volumetric fluid flow rate, wherein the ultrasound unit (10, 30; 10, 330) is adapted to determine for each introduction location a respective ultrasound image of the inner lumen of the blood vessel (20) at an imaging location being behind the respective introduction location with respect to the flow direction of the blood within the blood vessel (20), wherein the speckle density determination unit (7) is adapted to determine for each ultrasound image a respective speckle density value being indicative of the level of the speckle density in the respective ultrasound image, and wherein the blood flow rate determination unit (8) is adapted to determine several blood flow values being indicative of several volumetric blood flow rates based on the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rates.
 
10. The blood flow determination system as defined in claim 8, wherein the ultrasound unit (10, 30) comprises an intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) probe (30) for generating the ultrasound image of the inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20).
 
11. The blood flow determination system as defined in claim 10, wherein the ultrasound unit (10, 30) comprises several intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) probes (30) for generating several ultrasound images of the inner lumen (21) of the blood vessel (20) at several imaging locations (22) being behind the introduction location (23) with respect to the flow direction (24) of the blood within the blood vessel (20), wherein the speckle density determination unit (7) is adapted to determine several speckle density values being indicative of the levels of the speckle densities of the respective ultrasound images, and wherein the blood flow rate determination unit (8) is adapted to determine the blood flow value being indicative of the volumetric blood flow rate based on an average of the determined several speckle density values and the volumetric fluid flow rate.
 
12. An angiography image generation system for generating an angiography image, wherein the angiography image generation system (1) comprises:

- a blood flow determination system as defined in claim 8, wherein the fluid introduction unit is adapted to introduce a contrast agent as the fluid into the blood vessel (20),

- a contrast agent imaging unit (11, 40) for generating an image of the contrast agent within the blood vessel (20), in order to generate the angiography image.


 
13. A blood flow determination method comprising:

- determining a speckle density value being indicative of a level of a speckle density in an ultrasound image of an inner lumen (21) of a blood vessel (20), which has been generated at an imaging location (22) being behind an introduction location (23) with respect to a flow direction (24) of blood within the blood vessel (20), wherein at the introduction location (23) a fluid has been introduced into the blood vessel (20) with a known volumetric fluid flow rate, by a speckle density determination unit (7), and

- determining a blood flow value being indicative of a volumetric blood flow rate based on the determined speckle density value and the volumetric fluid flow rate by a blood flow rate determination unit (8).


 
14. An angiography image generation method for generating an angiography image, wherein the angiography image generation method comprises:

- carrying out the steps of the blood flow determination method as defined in claim 13, wherein a contrast agent is introduced into the blood vessel (20) as the fluid,

- generating an image of the contrast agent within the blood vessel (20) by a contrast agent imaging unit, in order to generate the angiography image.


 
15. A blood flow determination computer program comprising program code means for causing a blood flow determination apparatus as defined in claim 1 to carry out the blood flow determination method as defined in claim 13, when the computer program is run on the blood flow determination apparatus.
 


Ansprüche

1. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung umfassend:

- eine Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7) zum Bestimmen eines Speckledichtewerts, der ein Maß einer Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild eines Innenvolumens (21) eines Blutgefäßes (20) angibt, das an einer Bildgebungsposition (22) erzeugt wurde, welche sich hinter einer Einführungsstelle (23) in Bezug auf eine Flussrichtung (24) des Bluts in dem Blutgefäß (20) befindet, wobei an der Einführungsstelle (23) ein Fluid mit einer bekannten volumetrischen Fluidflussrate in das Blutgefäß (20) eingeführt wurde,

- eine Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) zum Bestimmen eines Blutflusswerts, der eine volumetrische Blutflussrate angibt, basierend auf dem bestimmten Speckledichtewert und der volumetrischen Fluidflussrate.


 
2. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung (5) ferner eine Speckledichtebereitstellungseinheit (6) zum Bereitstellen eines Blutspeckledichtewerts umfasst, der das Maß der Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild angibt, das nur Blut zeigt, und zum Bereitstellen eines Fluidspeckledichtewerts, der das Maß der Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild angibt, das nur das Fluid zeigt, wobei die Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) dafür ausgelegt ist, den Blutflusswert auch basierend auf dem Blutspeckledichtewert und dem Fluidspeckledichtewert zu bestimmen.
 
3. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 2, wobei die Speckledichtebereitstellungseinheit (6) dafür ausgelegt ist, den Blutspeckledichtewert basierend auf einem weiteren Ultraschallbild des Innenlumens (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) zu bestimmen, das an einer Position erzeugt wurde, an der das Innenlumen (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) nur Blut enthält.
 
4. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7) dafür ausgelegt ist, den Speckledichtewert derartig zu bestimmen, dass er einen Mittelwert des Maßes der Speckledichte in mindestens einigen von mehreren Ultraschallbildern angibt, die für verschiedene Zeitpunkte an der Bildgebungsposition (22) erzeugt wurden, während das Fluid kontinuierlich in das Blutgefäß (20) eingeführt wurde.
 
5. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7) dafür ausgelegt ist, die gesamte Region des Ultraschallbilds, die dem Innenlumen (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) entspricht, bei der Bestimmung des Speckledichtewerts zu berücksichtigen.
 
6. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) dafür ausgelegt ist, eine nicht-lineare Beziehung zwischen dem zu bestimmenden Blutflusswert und dem Speckledichtewert zu verwenden.
 
7. Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 6, wobei die Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung (5) ferner eine Speckledichtebereitstellungseinheit (6) zum Bereitstellen eines Blutspeckledichtewerts umfasst, der das Maß der Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild angibt, das nur Blut zeigt, und zum Bereitstellen eines Fluidspeckledichtewerts, der das Maß der Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild angibt, das nur Fluid zeigt, wobei die Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) dafür ausgelegt ist, die folgende nicht-lineare Beziehung zwischen dem zu bestimmenden Blutflusswert und dem Speckledichtewert zu verwenden:

wobei QB den zu bestimmenden Blutflusswert bezeichnet, QC die volumetrische Fluidflussrate an der Einführungsstelle bezeichnet, dM den Speckledichtewert bezeichnet, der das Maß der Speckledichte in dem Ultraschallbild des Innenlumens des Blutgefäßes angibt, das an der Bildgebungsposition erzeugt wurde, dc den bereitgestellten Fluidspeckledichtewert bezeichnet, dB den bereitgestellten Blutdichtespecklewert bezeichnet und f(d) eine nicht-lineare Funktion bezeichnet, die einen Ultraschallspeckledichtewert d mit einer entsprechenden Streuer-Konzentration in Beziehung setzt.
 
8. Blutflussbestimmungssystem umfassend:

- eine Fluideinführungseinheit (4, 9) zum Einführen eines Fluids mit einer volumetrischen Fluidflussrate in das Blutgefäß (20) an der Einführungsstelle (23),

- eine Ultraschalleinheit (10, 30) zum Erzeugen eines Ultraschallbilds eines Innenlumens (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) an einer Bildgebungsposition (22), welche sich hinter der Einführungsstelle (23) in Bezug auf eine Flussrichtung (24) des Bluts in dem Blutgefäß (20) befindet, und

- eine Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung (5) zum Bestimmen eines Blutflusswerts, der eine volumetrische Blutflussrate in einem Blutgefäß (20) angibt, wie in Anspruch 1 definiert.


 
9. Blutflussbestimmungssystem nach Anspruch 8, wobei die Fluideinführungseinheit einen Schlauch (205; 305) mit mehreren entlang der Länge des Schlauchs (205; 305) angeordneten Schlauchöffnungen (206; 306) zum Einführen des Fluids in das Blutgefäß (20) an mehreren Einführungsstellen mit einer jeweils bekannten volumetrischen Fluidflussrate umfasst, wobei die Ultraschalleinheit (10, 30; 10, 330) dafür ausgelegt ist, für jede Einführungsstelle ein jeweiliges Ultraschallbild des Innenlumens des Blutgefäßes (20) an einer Bildgebungsposition zu bestimmen, welche sich hinter der jeweiligen Einführungsstelle in Bezug auf die Flussrichtung des Bluts in dem Blutgefäß (20) befindet, wobei die Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7) dafür ausgelegt ist, für jedes Ultraschallbild einen jeweiligen Speckledichtewert zu bestimmen, der das Maß der Speckledichte in dem jeweiligen Ultraschallbild angibt, und wobei die Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) dafür ausgelegt ist, mehrere Blutflusswerte, die mehrere volumetrische Blutflussraten angeben, basierend auf den bestimmten mehreren Speckledichtewerten und den volumetrischen Fluidflussraten zu bestimmen.
 
10. Blutflussbestimmungssystem nach Anspruch 8, wobei die Ultraschalleinheit (10, 30) eine intravaskuläre Ultraschall- (IVUS) Sonde (30) zum Erzeugen des Ultraschallbilds des Innenvolumens (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) umfasst.
 
11. Blutflussbestimmungssystem nach Anspruch 10, wobei die Ultraschalleinheit (10, 30) mehrere intravaskuläre Ultraschall- (IVUS) Sonden (30) zum Erzeugen mehrerer Ultraschallbilder des Innenvolumens (21) des Blutgefäßes (20) an mehreren Bildgebungspositionen (22) umfasst, die sich hinter der Einführungsstelle (23) in Bezug auf die Flussrichtung (24) des Bluts in dem Blutgefäß (20) befinden, wobei die Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7) dafür ausgelegt ist, mehrere Speckledichtewerte zu bestimmen, die das Maß der Speckledichte der jeweiligen Ultraschallbilder angeben, und wobei die Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8) dafür ausgelegt ist, den Blutflusswert, der die volumetrische Blutflussrate angibt, basierend auf einem Mittelwert der bestimmten mehreren Speckledichtewerte und der volumetrischen Fluidflussrate zu bestimmen.
 
12. Angiographiebilderzeugungssystem zum Erzeugen eines Angiographiebilds, wobei das Angiographiebilderzeugungssystem (1) Folgendes umfasst:

- ein Blutflussbestimmungssystem nach Anspruch 8, wobei die Fluideinführungseinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, ein Kontrastmittel als das Fluid in das Blutgefäß (20) einzuführen,

- eine Kontrastmittelbildgebungseinheit (11, 40) zum Erzeugen eines Bilds des Kontrastmittels in dem Blutgefäß (20), um das Angiographiebild zu erzeugen.


 
13. Blutflussbestimmungsverfahren umfassend:

- Bestimmen eines Speckledichtewerts, der ein Maß einer Speckledichte in einem Ultraschallbild eines Innenvolumens (21) eines Blutgefäßes (20) angibt, das an einer Bildgebungsposition (22) erzeugt wurde, welche sich hinter einer Einführungsstelle (23) in Bezug auf eine Flussrichtung (24) des Bluts in dem Blutgefäß (20) befindet, wobei an der Einführungsstelle (23) ein Fluid mit einer bekannten volumetrischen Fluidflussrate in das Blutgefäß (20) eingeführt wurde, durch eine Speckledichtebestimmungseinheit (7), und

- Bestimmen eines Blutflusswerts, der eine volumetrische Blutflussrate angibt, basierend auf dem bestimmten Speckledichtewert und der volumetrischen Fluidflussrate durch eine Blutflussratenbestimmungseinheit (8).


 
14. Angiographiebilderzeugungsverfahren zum Erzeugen eines Angiographiebilds, wobei das Angiographiebilderzeugungsverfahren Folgendes umfasst:

- Durchführen der Schritte des Blutflussbestimmungsverfahrens wie in Anspruch 13 definiert, wobei ein Kontrastmittel als das Fluid in das Blutgefäß (20) eingeführt wird,

- Erzeugen eines Bilds des Kontrastmittels in dem Blutgefäß (20) durch eine Kontrastmittelbildgebungseinheit, um das Angiographiebild zu erzeugen.


 
15. Blutflussbestimmungscomputerprogramm umfassend Programmcodemittel zum Veranlassen einer Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, das Blutflussbestimmungsverfahren nach Anspruch 13 durchzuführen, wenn das Computerprogramm auf der Blutflussbestimmungsvorrichtung ausgeführt wird.
 


Revendications

1. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin comprenant :

- une unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7) permettant de déterminer une valeur de densité de granularité indiquant un niveau d'une densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore d'une lumière interne (21) d'un vaisseau sanguin (20), qui a été générée au niveau d'un emplacement d'imagerie (22) se trouvant derrière un emplacement d'introduction (23) par rapport à une direction de flux (24) du sang à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20), dans lequel au niveau de l'emplacement d'introduction (23) un fluide a été introduit dans le vaisseau sanguin (20) avec un débit de fluide volumétrique connu,

- une unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) pour déterminer une valeur de flux sanguin indiquant un débit de sang volumétrique sur la base de la valeur de densité de granularité déterminée et du débit de fluide volumétrique.


 
2. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'appareil de détermination de flux sanguin (5) comprend en outre une unité de fourniture de densité de granularité (6) pour fournir une valeur de densité de granularité du sang indiquant le niveau de densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore montrant uniquement le sang et pour fournir une valeur de densité de granularité de fluide indiquant le niveau de la densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore montrant uniquement le fluide, dans lequel l'unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) est conçue pour déterminer la valeur de flux sanguin également sur la base de la valeur de densité de granularité de sang et la valeur de densité de granularité de fluide.
 
3. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 2, dans lequel l'unité de fourniture de densité de granularité (6) est conçue pour déterminer la valeur de densité de granularité de sang sur la base d'une autre image ultrasonore de la lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20), qui a été générée au niveau d'un emplacement au niveau duquel la lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20) contient uniquement du sang.
 
4. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7) est conçue pour déterminer la valeur de densité de granularité de telle sorte qu'elle indique une moyenne des niveaux des densités de granularité dans au moins certaines de plusieurs images ultrasonores qui ont été générées à différents moments au niveau de l'emplacement d'imagerie (22), pendant que le fluide était introduit en continu dans le vaisseau sanguin (20).
 
5. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7) est conçue pour prendre en compte la totalité de la région de l'image ultrasonore, qui correspond à la lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20), pour déterminer la valeur de densité de granularité.
 
6. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) est conçue pour utiliser une relation non linéaire entre la valeur de flux sanguin à déterminer et la valeur de densité de granularité.
 
7. Appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 6, dans lequel l'appareil de détermination de flux sanguin (5) comprend en outre une unité de fourniture de densité de granularité (6) pour fournir une valeur de densité de granularité de sang indiquant le niveau de la densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore montrant uniquement le sang et pour fournir une valeur de densité de granularité de fluide indiquant le niveau de la densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore montrant uniquement le fluide, dans lequel l'unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) est conçue pour utiliser la relation non linéaire suivante entre la valeur de flux sanguin à déterminer et la valeur de densité de granularité :

dans laquelle QB désigne la valeur de flux sanguin à déterminer, QC désigne le débit de fluide volumétrique au niveau de l'emplacement d'introduction, dM désigne la valeur de densité de granularité indiquant le niveau de la densité de granularité dans l'image ultrasonore de la lumière interne du vaisseau sanguin qui a été générée au niveau de l'emplacement d'imagerie, dc désigne la valeur de densité de granularité de fluide fournie, dB désigne la valeur de densité de granularité de sang fournie et f(d) désigne une fonction non linéaire entre une valeur de densité de granularité ultrasonore d et une concentration de diffuseur correspondante.
 
8. Système de détermination de flux sanguin comprenant :

- une unité d'introduction de fluide (4, 9) pour introduire un fluide dans le vaisseau sanguin (20) avec un débit de fluide volumétrique au niveau d'un emplacement d'introduction (23),

- une unité ultrasonore (10, 30) pour générer une image ultrasonore d'une lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20) au niveau d'un emplacement d'imagerie (22) se trouvant derrière l'emplacement d'introduction (23) par rapport à une direction de flux (24) du sang à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20) ; et

- un appareil de détermination de flux sanguin (5) pour déterminer une valeur de flux sanguin indiquant un débit volumétrique de sang à l'intérieur d'un vaisseau sanguin (20) selon la revendication 1.


 
9. Système de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 8, dans lequel l'unité d'introduction de fluide comprend un tube (205; 305) doté de plusieurs ouvertures de tube (206; 306) situées le long de la longueur du tube (205; 305) pour introduire le fluide dans le vaisseau sanguin (20) au niveau de plusieurs emplacements d'introduction à un débit de fluide volumétrique connu respectif, dans lequel l'unité ultrasonore (10, 30; 10, 330) est conçue pour déterminer pour chaque emplacement d'introduction une image ultrasonore respective de la lumière interne du vaisseau sanguin (20) au niveau d'un emplacement d'imagerie se trouvant derrière l'emplacement d'introduction respectif par rapport à la direction de flux du sang à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20), dans lequel l'unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7) est conçue pour déterminer pour chaque image ultrasonore une valeur de densité de granularité respective indiquant le niveau de la densité de granularité dans l'image ultrasonore respective, et dans lequel l'unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) est conçue pour déterminer plusieurs valeurs de flux sanguin indiquant plusieurs débits de sang volumétriques sur la base des plusieurs valeurs de densité de granularité déterminées et des débits de fluide volumétriques.
 
10. Système de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 8, dans lequel l'unité ultrasonore (10, 30) comprend une sonde ultrasonore
intravasculaire (IVUS) (30) pour générer l'image ultrasonore de la lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20).
 
11. Système de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 10, dans lequel l'unité ultrasonore (10, 30) comprend plusieurs sondes ultrasonores intravasculaires (IVUS) (30) pour générer plusieurs images ultrasonores de la lumière interne (21) du vaisseau sanguin (20) au niveau de plusieurs emplacements d'imagerie (22) se trouvant derrière l'emplacement d'introduction (23) par rapport à la direction de flux (24) du sang à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20), dans lequel l'unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7) est conçue pour déterminer plusieurs valeurs de densité de granularité indiquant les niveaux des densités de granularité des images ultrasonores respectives, et dans lequel l'unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8) est conçue pour déterminer la valeur de flux sanguin indiquant le débit de sang volumétrique sur une moyenne des plusieurs valeurs de densité de granularité déterminées et du débit de fluide volumétrique.
 
12. Système de génération d'image d'angiographie pour générer une image d'angiographie, dans lequel le système de génération d'image d'angiographie (1) comprend :

- un système de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 8, dans lequel l'unité d'introduction de fluide est conçue pour introduire un agent de contraste comme fluide dans le vaisseau sanguin (20),

- une unité d'imagerie d'agent de contraste (11, 40) pour générer une image de l'agent de contraste à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20), afin de générer l'image d'angiographie.


 
13. Procédé de détermination de flux sanguin comprenant :

- la détermination d'une valeur de densité de granularité indiquant un niveau d'une densité de granularité dans une image ultrasonore d'une lumière interne (21) d'un vaisseau sanguin (20), qui a été générée au niveau d'un emplacement d'imagerie (22) se trouvant derrière un emplacement d'introduction (23) par rapport à une direction de flux (24) du sang à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20), dans lequel au niveau de l'emplacement d'introduction (23) un fluide a été introduit dans le vaisseau sanguin (20) à un débit de fluide volumétrique connu, par une unité de détermination de densité de granularité (7), et

- la détermination d'une valeur de flux sanguin indiquant un débit sanguin volumétrique sur la base de la valeur de densité de granularité déterminée et du débit de fluide volumétrique par une unité de détermination de débit sanguin (8).


 
14. Procédé de génération d'image d'angiographie pour générer une image d'angiographie, dans lequel le procédé de génération d'image d'angiographie comprend :

- l'exécution des étapes du procédé de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 13, dans lequel un agent de contraste est introduit dans le vaisseau sanguin (20) comme fluide,

- la génération d'une image de l'agent de contraste à l'intérieur du vaisseau sanguin (20) par une unité d'imagerie d'agent de contraste, afin de générer l'image d'angiographie.


 
15. Programme informatique de détermination de flux sanguin comprenant un moyen de code de programme pour amener un appareil de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 1 à exécuter le procédé de détermination de flux sanguin selon la revendication 13, lorsque le programme informatique est exécuté sur l'appareil de détermination de flux sanguin.
 




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Cited references

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Patent documents cited in the description