This image shows the color imaging possible with the H-scan format compared to traditional ultrasound imaging around it, showing only shades of gray. Red vs. blue indicates different types of scatterers. (Credit: Professor Kevin Parker/University of Rochester)

A researcher has devised a way to incorporate new color identifications in ultrasound medical images, making it easier to differentiate fine details that currently appear as indistinguishable objects in shades of gray.

The new imaging format, based on quantitative backscattered imaging, would be especially valuable in helping physicians interpret ultrasound images of soft tissue, including muscle, glands, and organs such as the liver. The technology provides more detailed soft tissue images than other attempts.

A set of mathematical functions — devised in 1890 and rarely used in engineering — closely approximate ultrasound pulses. Using these functions makes analyses of ultrasound scattering easier. Instead of ultrasound images showing tissue structures as black and white objects, they can now be classified mathematically (by their size) and unique colors can be assigned to unique types of scatterers. The patented technology, called H-scan, is available for licensing.