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The superior scattering properties of gas bubbles compared with blood cells have made microbubble ultrasound contrast agents important tools in ultrasound diagnosis. Over the past 2 years they have become the focus of a wide and rapidly expanding field of research, with their benefits being repeatedly demonstrated, both in ultrasound image enhancement, and more recently in drug and gene delivery applications. However, despite considerable investigation, their behaviour is by no means fully understood and, while no definite evidence of harmful effects has been obtained, there remain some concerns as to their safety. In this review the existing theoretical and experimental evidence is examined in order to clarify the extent to which contrast agents are currently understood and to identify areas for future research. In particular the disparity between the conditions considered in theoretical models and those encountered both in vitro, and more importantly in vivo is discussed, together with the controversy regarding the risk of harmful bio-effects.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc inst mech eng h

Publication Date





429 - 447


Coated Materials, Biocompatible, Drug Delivery Systems, Image Enhancement, Microbubbles, Models, Theoretical, Scattering, Radiation, Ultrasonic Therapy, Ultrasonics, Ultrasonography