In cardiac elastography, the regional strain and strain rate imaging is based on displacement estimation of tissue sections within the heart muscle carried out with various block-matching techniques (cross-correlation, sum of absolute differences, sum of squared differences, etc.). The accuracy of these techniques depends on a combination of ultrasonic imaging parameters such as ultrasonic frequency of interrogation, signal-to-noise ratio, size of a kernel used in a block-matching algorithm, type of data and speckle decorrelation. In this paper, we discuss the possibility to enhance the accuracy of the displacement estimation via nonlinear filtering of B-mode images before block-matching operation. The combined effect of a filter algorithm and a kernel size on the accuracy of the displacement estimation is analyzed using a 36-frame sequence of grayscale B-mode images of a human heart acquired by an ultrasound system operating at 1.77 MHz. It is shown that the nonlinear filtering of images enables to obtain the desired accuracy (less than one pixel) of the displacement estimation with smaller kernels than without filtering. These results are obtained for two filters - an adaptive anisotropic diffusion filter and a nonlinear Gaussian filter chain. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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