Brachytherapy seed therapy is an increasingly common way to treat prostate cancer through localized radiation. The current standard of care relies on transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) for imaging guidance during the seed placement procedure. As visualization of individual metallic seeds tends to be difficult or inaccurate under TRUS guidance, guide needles are generally tracked to infer seed placement. In an effort to improve seed visualization and placement accuracy, the use of photoacoustic (PA) imaging, which is highly sensitive to metallic objects in soft tissue, was investigated for this clinical application. The PA imaging properties of bare (i.e., embedded in pure gelatin) and tissue-embedded (at depths of up to 13 mm) seeds were investigated with a multi-wavelength (750 to 1090 nm) PA imaging technique. Results indicate that, much like ultrasonic (US) imaging, an angular dependence (i.e., seed orientation relative to imaging transducer) of the PA signal exists. Despite this shortcoming, however, PA imaging offers improved contrast, over US imaging, of a seed in prostate tissue if sufficient local fluence is achieved. Additionally, although the PA signal of a bare seed is greatest for lower laser wavelengths (e.g., 750 nm), the scattering that results from tissue tends to favor the use of higher wavelengths (e.g., 1064 nm, which is the primary wavelength of Nd:YAG lasers) when the seed is located in tissue. A combined PA and US imaging approach (i.e., PAUS imaging) shows strong potential to visualize both the seed and the surrounding anatomical environment of the prostate during brachytherapy seed placement procedures.
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