Ultrasound provides a valuable tool for medical diagnosis offering real-time imaging with excellent spatial resolution and low cost. The advent of microbubble contrast agents has provided the additional ability to obtain essential quantitative information relating to tissue vascularity, tissue perfusion and even endothelial wall function. This technique has shown great promise for diagnosis and monitoring in a wide range of clinical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, with considerable potential benefits in terms of patient care. A key challenge of this technique, however, is the existence of significant variations in the imaging results, and the lack of understanding regarding their origin. The aim of this paper is to review the potential sources of variability in the quantification of tissue perfusion based on microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound images. These are divided into the following three categories: (i) factors relating to the scanner setting, which include transmission power, transmission focal depth, dynamic range, signal gain and transmission frequency, (ii) factors relating to the patient, which include body physical differences, physiological interaction of body with bubbles, propagation and attenuation through tissue, and tissue motion, and (iii) factors relating to the microbubbles, which include the type of bubbles and their stability, preparation and injection and dosage. It has been shown that the factors in all the three categories can significantly affect the imaging results and contribute to the variations observed. How these factors influence quantitative imaging is explained and possible methods for reducing such variations are discussed.
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