Previously, it was shown that low-intensity focused ultrasound pulses applied along with an ultrasound contrast agent results in temporary blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption. This effect could be used for targeted drug delivery in the central nervous system. This study examined the effects of burst length, pulse repetition frequency (PRF), and ultrasound contrast agent dose on the resulting BBB disruption. One hundred nonoverlapping brain locations were sonicated through a craniotomy in experiments in 26 rabbits (ultrasound frequency: 0.69 MHz, burst: 0.1, 1, 10 ms, PRF: 0.5, 1, 2, 5 Hz, duration: 20 s, peak negative pressure amplitude: 0.1 to 1.5 MPa, Optison dosage 50, 100, 250 microl/kg). For each sonication, BBB disruption was evaluated using contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. The BBB disruption threshold (the pressure amplitude yielding a 50% probability for BBB disruption) was determined using probit regression for the three burst lengths tested. Tissue effects were examined in light microscopy for representative locations with similar amounts of contrast enhancement from each group. While changing the PRF or the Optison dosage did not result in a significant difference in the magnitude of the BBB disruption (p > 0.05), reducing the burst length resulted in significantly less contrast enhancement (p < 0.01). The BBB disruption thresholds were estimated to be 0.69, 0.47 and 0.36 MPa for 0.1, 1 and 10 ms bursts, respectively. No difference was detected in histology between any experimental groups. This data suggests that over the range of parameters tested, BBB disruption is not affected by PRF or ultrasound contrast agent dose. However, both the BBB disruption magnitude and its threshold depend on the burst length.
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