Cavitation and contrast: the use of bubbles in ultrasound imaging and therapy.
Stride EP., Coussios CC.
Microbubbles and cavitation are playing an increasingly significant role in both diagnostic and therapeutic applications of ultrasound. Microbubble ultrasound contrast agents have been in clinical use now for more than two decades, stimulating the development of a range of new contrast-specific imaging techniques which offer substantial benefits in echocardiography, microcirculatory imaging, and more recently, quantitative and molecular imaging. In drug delivery and gene therapy, microbubbles are being investigated/developed as vehicles which can be loaded with the required therapeutic agent, traced to the target site using diagnostic ultrasound, and then destroyed with ultrasound of higher intensity energy burst to release the material locally, thus avoiding side effects associated with systemic administration, e.g. of toxic chemotherapy. It has moreover been shown that the motion of the microbubbles increases the permeability of both individual cell membranes and the endothelium, thus enhancing therapeutic uptake, and can locally increase the activity of drugs by enhancing their transport across biologically inaccessible interfaces such as blood clots or solid tumours. In high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) surgery and lithotripsy, controlled cavitation is being investigated as a means of increasing the speed and efficacy of the treatment. The aim of this paper is both to describe the key features of the physical behaviour of acoustically driven bubbles which underlie their effectiveness in biomedical applications and to review the current state of the art.