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OBJECTIVE: Ultrasound-mediated cavitation has been harnessed to improve the delivery of various therapeutics, including the extravasation of small molecule drugs and nanoparticles (<1 µm) into soft tissue. This study investigated whether cavitation could also enhance the extravasation of larger (>10 µm) therapeutic particles, representative of radio- or chemo-embolic particles, in a tissue-mimicking phantom. METHODS: High-speed (103-106 frames/s) optical imaging was used to observe the motion of glass microspheres with diameters of 15-32 or 105-107 µm in an agar phantom under exposure to high-intensity focused ultrasound (0.5 MHz) at a range of peak negative pressures (1.9-2.8 MPa) in the presence of SonoVue microbubbles. RESULTS: In contrast to the microstreaming reported to be responsible for nanoparticle transport, the formation and translation of bubble clouds were found to be primarily responsible for the motion of glass microspheres. The bubble clouds were seen both to create channels in the phantom and to travel along them under the action of primary acoustic radiation force, either propelling or entraining microspheres with them. Collisions between microspheres were also seen to promote cloud formation and cavitation activity. CONCLUSION: Ultrasound-mediated cavitation can promote the transport of solid microparticles in tissue-mimicking material. Further work is needed to understand the influence of tissue mechanical properties and ultrasound exposure parameters on the extent and uniformity of particle distribution that can be achieved.

Original publication




Journal article


Ultrasound med biol

Publication Date



Cavitation, Embolic microspheres, Extravasation, High-speed imaging, Therapeutic ultrasound