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JP2003175037

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This translation is machine-generated. It cannot be guaranteed that it is intelligible, accurate,
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DESCRIPTION JP2003175037
[0001]
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates to an
ultrasonic probe and an ultrasonic diagnostic apparatus, and more particularly to a structure of
an ultrasonic probe for improving a frame rate.
[0002]
2. Description of the Related Art A general ultrasonic probe is provided with an array transducer
consisting of a plurality of transducer elements. The ultrasonic beam is scanned in the array
direction by applying an electronic scan to the array transducer. As a scanning method,
electronic linear scanning, electronic sector scanning and the like are known. Generally, one or
more matching layers are formed on the top surface side of the array transducer, and an acoustic
lens is provided on the top surface. The acoustic lens is a member for focusing the ultrasonic
beam in the elevation direction orthogonal to the array direction. In the conventional ultrasonic
probe, only one scanning surface is formed by one electronic scan, so, for example, when echo
data is taken in a three-dimensional area, a transducer unit including an array transducer is used.
It is necessary to repeat the electronic scan at each machine scan position while translating or
rocking (i.e. while doing a machine scan).
[0003]
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However, for example, when performing three-dimensional measurement on a relatively fast
moving organ such as the heart, the three-dimensional image is distorted in time unless the
frame rate per unit time is improved. I will. On the other hand, when the frame rate is improved
and scanning is performed at high speed, spatial resolution in the scanning direction is reduced.
This problem similarly occurs, for example, in the case where echo data on each scanning surface
are superimposed to form an integrated image.
[0004]
The present invention has been made in view of the above-described conventional problems, and
an object thereof is to improve a frame rate when echo data is captured in a three-dimensional
area.
[0005]
The invention consists in simultaneously forming a plurality of receive beams in the elevation
direction.
[0006]
In order to achieve the above object, according to the present invention, in an ultrasonic probe
having an array transducer consisting of a plurality of transducer elements, the plurality of
transducer elements are divided into a plurality of groups. The transmission / reception direction
of the vibration element is set to a different angle in the elevation direction between the groups.
[0007]
According to the above configuration, since the transmission and reception directions of the
transducer elements are set in different directions in the elevation direction among the groups, a
plurality of scanning planes are simultaneously formed without changing the direction of the
array transducer. It becomes possible.
For example, according to the present invention, in the case where a plurality of scan planes are
formed to form a three-dimensional echo data capture space while oscillating scan of an array
transducer (or a transducer unit including the same), The number of scan planes per hour can be
increased, and in particular, two scan planes can be configured at the same time, which can form
a three-dimensional data acquisition area in a short time.
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Therefore, the problem of so-called time distortion and the problem of insufficient time
resolution can be solved and improved.
[0008]
When group setting is performed on a plurality of transducer elements, different groups may be
alternately assigned one by one, or groups may be randomly assigned.
By increasing the number of groups, it is possible to form more receive beams in one
transmission. However, if the number of vibrating elements forming one group is too small, the
sensitivity and resolution will be reduced, and it is necessary to set the group in consideration of
that.
[0009]
The present invention is applicable to 1.5D probes as well as 2D probes. Moreover, it is
applicable in various electronic scanning systems, such as an electronic sector and electronic
linear.
[0010]
Preferably, each of the vibration elements includes a piezoelectric element, and between the
groups, the piezoelectric elements are arranged at different inclination angles in the elevation
direction. According to this configuration, it is possible to set the transmission / reception
direction of the ultrasonic wave to a desired direction by changing the direction of the
piezoelectric element. However, when performing an electronic sector scan, if the deflection
angle of the ultrasonic beam is large, an ultrasonic wave emitted from one vibrating element
collides with the other vibrating element between two adjacent vibrating elements, or The
problem of mutual interference arises in that a reflected wave to be received by one of the
transducers collides with the other of the transducers to form a shadow.
[0011]
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Preferably, each vibration element includes a piezoelectric element for transmitting and receiving
ultrasonic waves and a refractive layer for refracting the propagation direction of ultrasonic
waves transmitted and received by the piezoelectric element, and the transmitting and receiving
directions are transmitted using the refractive layer. The angle is set. According to this
configuration, it is possible to avoid the problem of mutual interference as described above, and
it is also advantageous in terms of manufacturing cost.
[0012]
Preferably, the plurality of groups are generally utilized to form a single transmit beam, and each
group is individually utilized to form a plurality of receive beams. Note that the origins of the
plurality of reception beams may or may not coincide with each other. For example, in the first
group and the second group, the angles in the transmission / reception direction may be
different from each other, and the centers of the vibrating elements may be shifted in the
elevation direction between the groups.
[0013]
Further, in order to achieve the above object, according to the present invention, in the ultrasonic
probe having an array transducer including a plurality of transducer elements, the plurality of
transducer elements are divided into a plurality of groups, and each transducer element is A
piezoelectric element for transmitting and receiving ultrasonic waves and a refractive layer for
refracting the propagation direction of ultrasonic waves transmitted and received by the
piezoelectric element, wherein the refractive action of the refractive layer is different between
the groups. Do.
[0014]
Preferably, the refractive layers include first and second members joined to each other at an
interface inclined with respect to the upper surface of the piezoelectric element and having
different sound speeds.
Here, the interface is preferably a flat surface, but may be a curved surface such as a concave
surface or a convex surface.
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[0015]
Preferably, the speed of sound in the first member and the speed of sound in the second member
are different from each other, and the first member and the second member have substantially
the same acoustic impedance as each other.
[0016]
(3) In addition, in order to achieve the above object, according to the present invention, there is
provided a vibrator unit having an array vibrator comprising a plurality of vibrator elements, and
a mechanical scanning mechanism for mechanically scanning the vibrator unit in the elevation
direction. And the plurality of transducer elements are divided into a plurality of groups, and the
transmitting / receiving direction of the transducer elements is different in the elevation
direction among the groups. It is characterized in that it is set to.
[0017]
As described above, as means for differentiating the transmission / reception direction, a method
of inclining the vibration element itself, a method of using a refraction layer, and the like can be
considered.
[0018]
(4) In addition, in order to achieve the above object, according to the present invention, there is
provided an ultrasonic probe including a transducer array comprising a plurality of transducer
groups, and an apparatus main body connected to the ultrasonic probe. The transmission and
reception directions of ultrasonic waves are set at different angles in the elevation direction
between the respective transducer element groups, and the device main body includes a
transmitter for forming a transmit beam in the transducer element array; And a receiver for
simultaneously forming a reception beam for each of the plurality of transducer element groups
with respect to one transmission beam in the transducer element array.
Here, the receiving unit may be configured by a plurality of receiving circuits.
[0019]
BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION Preferred embodiments of the present
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invention will be described below with reference to the drawings.
[0020]
FIG. 1 shows the main configuration of an ultrasonic probe according to the present invention.
Specifically, the transducer unit 8 is shown as a perspective view.
[0021]
The ultrasonic probe for acquiring three-dimensional echo data according to this embodiment is
roughly divided into a transducer unit 8 shown in FIG. 1 and a scanning mechanism (not shown)
for mechanically swinging the transducer unit. , Is configured by.
The transducer unit 8 will be described in detail below.
[0022]
The piezoelectric element array 12 is composed of a plurality of piezoelectric elements.
Those plural piezoelectric elements are divided into two groups of A group and B group in the
present embodiment, and in the figure, piezoelectric elements belonging to A group are
represented by reference numeral 10A, and piezoelectric elements belonging to B group The
element is represented by the symbol 10B. The piezoelectric elements 10A and the piezoelectric
elements 10B are alternately arranged up and down as illustrated. In the present embodiment,
two groups are set, but of course, three or more groups may be set.
[0023]
As shown in FIG. 1, each piezoelectric element 10A is arranged in an inclined state in which one
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end side is lifted in FIG. 1 and the other end side is lowered. On the other hand, the piezoelectric
elements 10B are arranged in an inclined state in which the other end side is lifted and the one
end side is lowered, contrary to the piezoelectric element 10A. As described above, the reason
why the piezoelectric element 10A or 10B is disposed in an inclined manner is to make the
direction of transmission and reception of ultrasonic waves different between the groups, and
more specifically, the elevation direction indicated as the Y direction in the figure. In each of the
groups, the transmission / reception direction of the ultrasonic wave is different. Each
piezoelectric element is formed of, for example, a member such as PZT, and ultrasonic waves are
transmitted and received in each piezoelectric element.
[0024]
The first matching layer array 16 is composed of a plurality of first matching layers. Specifically,
the plurality of first matching layers are divided into two groups of A group and B group, 14 A
indicates the first matching layer belonging to A group, and 14 B indicates the first belonging to
B group. The matching layer is shown. That is, the first matching layer 14A is located on the
upper surface side of the piezoelectric element 10A, and the first matching layer 14B is located
on the upper surface side of the piezoelectric element 10B.
[0025]
Furthermore, in the present embodiment, the second matching layer array 20 is constituted by a
plurality of second matching layers, and the plurality of second matching layers are divided into
two groups of A group and B group. In FIG. 1, reference numeral 18A denotes a second matching
layer belonging to the A group, and reference numeral 18B denotes a second matching layer
belonging to the B group. The second matching layer 18A is located on the top side of the first
matching layer 14A, and the second matching layer 18B is located on the top side of the first
matching layer 14B.
[0026]
Therefore, a plurality of stacks (vibrating elements) are arranged in alignment along the array
direction, which is the X direction, but they are divided into two groups, ie, the stack 22 belongs
to group A. , And the stacked body 24 belongs to the B group. As shown in FIG. 1, in each of the
stacks 22 and 24, the first matching layer and the second matching layer are also inclined in
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accordance with the inclination of the vibration element.
[0027]
An acoustic lens 32 is provided on the upper surface side of the second matching layer array 20,
and a backing layer 30 is provided on the lower surface side of the piezoelectric element array
12. The lower surface side of the acoustic lens 32 has a shape conforming to the upper surface
side shape of the second matching layer array 20, and the upper surface side of the backing layer
30 has a shape conforming to the lower surface side shape of the piezoelectric element array 12
There is.
[0028]
Incidentally, although a groove is formed between the laminates 22 and 24, it is not shown in
FIG.
[0029]
According to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, as described above, since the piezoelectric
elements are provided to be inclined for each group, it is possible to make the transmission /
reception direction of ultrasonic waves different in the elevation direction according to the
inclination. It is possible, for example, to simultaneously form two receive beams with different
angles in the elevation direction per transmit beam.
By the way, when forming a transmission beam, transmission of ultrasonic waves is performed by
the vibration elements of all groups.
[0030]
Therefore, if the transducer unit 8 as shown in FIG. 1 is translated or oscillated in parallel in the
elevation direction, the number of scanning planes formed per unit time can be doubled as
compared with the prior art, Thus, if the size of the three-dimensional data acquisition space is
the same, the time required for the acquisition can be halved.
[0031]
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Although two matching layers of the first matching layer array 16 and the second matching layer
array 20 are provided in FIG. 1, the two matching layer arrays do not necessarily have to be
provided, and one matching layer array may be provided. The acoustic matching between the
acoustic lens and the piezoelectric element array 12 may be achieved by
[0032]
FIG. 2 shows a vibrator element unit 33 according to another embodiment as a perspective view.
[0033]
The piezoelectric element array 34 is constituted by a plurality of piezoelectric elements 36
arranged horizontally as in the case of the conventional piezoelectric element array.
On the upper surface side of the piezoelectric element array 34, a first matching layer array 38
and a second matching layer array 42 are provided as in the prior art.
Each first matching layer 40 and each second matching layer 44 are arranged horizontally.
[0034]
In the present embodiment, the refractive layer array 46 is provided on the upper surface side of
the second matching layer array 42.
The refractive layer array 46 is constituted by a plurality of refractive layers, and the refractive
layers alternately constitute A group and B group. In FIG. 2, the refractive layer 52A constituting
the group A is shown, and the refractive layer 52A is constituted by the first member 48A and
the second member 50A as described in detail later. The same applies to the refractive layers
52B (described later) belonging to the B group. An acoustic lens 56 is provided on the upper
surface side of the refractive layer array 46, and a backing layer 54 is provided on the lower
surface side of the piezoelectric element array 34.
[0035]
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As illustrated, the piezoelectric element 36, the first matching layer 40, the second matching
layer 44, and the refraction layer 52A or 52B constitute one laminate (oscillation element), and
each laminate is alternately A It belongs to the group and the B group.
[0036]
3 and 4 show cross-sectional views of the transducer unit 33 shown in FIG.
FIG. 3 shows the cross section of the refractive layer 52A, and FIG. 4 shows the cross section of
the refractive layer 52B. In FIG. 3, the refractive layer 52A is constituted by a first member 48A
provided on the upper side and a second member 50A provided on the lower side. Here, the first
member 48A and the second member 50A are made of materials that make the sound velocities
of ultrasonic waves passing therethrough different from each other, and for the refraction layer
52A, the sound velocity in the first member 48A is the second. It is larger than the sound velocity
in the member 50A. Therefore, as shown in FIG. 3, the propagation path of the ultrasonic wave
transmitted and received in the piezoelectric element 36 is inclined to the right in FIG. 3 by a
predetermined angle. Of course, the acoustic lens 56 also exerts the converging action of the
ultrasonic wave in the elevation direction, and the direction of the final transmitted / received
wave is defined by the total of the action of the refractive layer 52A and the action of the
acoustic lens 56. Incidentally, although the interface between the first member 48A and the
second member 50A is an inclined plane as shown in the drawing, the interface may be a convex
surface or a concave surface. The same applies to the refractive layer 52B described below.
[0037]
In FIG. 4, the refractive layer 52B is constituted by a first member 48B disposed on the upper
side and 50B disposed on the lower side, wherein the speed of sound of the passing ultrasonic
waves is higher than the speed of sound in the second member 50B. The sound speed in the one
member 48B is selected to be larger. In the refractive layer 52A and the refractive layer 52B, the
first members 48A and 48B are respectively formed of the same member, and the same applies
to the second members 50A and 50B. According to the refractive layer 52B shown in FIG. 4, as
described above, the propagation direction of the ultrasonic wave transmitted and received in the
piezoelectric element 36 can be inclined to the left in FIG. 4 by the function of the refractive layer
52B. . In the present embodiment, the directions of ultrasonic beams in the elevation direction
are changed in both the group A and the group B. However, if the beam of ultrasonic waves is
deflected in at least one group, one transmission is performed. It is possible to set multiple
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receive beams in different directions.
[0038]
The acoustic impedances of the first member 48A and the second member 52A may be
substantially the same, and a decrease in the transmittance of ultrasonic waves due to the
occurrence of reflection between them may be prevented. The same applies to the case of the
first member 48B and the second member 52B.
[0039]
Two receive beams 60, 62 and a transmit beam 64 are shown in FIG. In FIG. 5, the horizontal axis
indicates the distance in the elevation direction from the center of the piezoelectric element
array, and the vertical axis indicates the sound pressure or the relative amplitude as the
sensitivity. As shown in the figure, the receiving beam 60 deflected to the right is formed by the
laminates, that is, the vibrating elements forming the A group, and similarly, it is deflected to the
left by the laminates, the vibrating elements A receive beam 62 can be formed. At the time of
transmission, all the stacks or vibrators of both groups are simultaneously utilized to form a
single transmit beam 64 combining two transmit beams. Therefore, it is possible to perform two
receptions per transmission, and as described above, double the number of scanning planes
formed per unit time than in the prior art.
[0040]
Although so-called electronic sector scanning is applied in this embodiment, the same vibrator
unit as described above can of course be used when electronic linear scanning or another
electronic scanning method is applied.
[0041]
Next, FIG. 6 shows a main part configuration of the ultrasonic diagnostic apparatus according to
the present embodiment as a block diagram.
[0042]
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The three-dimensional data acquisition probe 80 has the transducer unit 33 shown in FIG.
The vibrator unit 33 has a piezoelectric element array composed of a plurality of piezoelectric
elements, and the plurality of piezoelectric elements are divided into two groups of A group and
B group as described above.
[0043]
The scanning mechanism 82 is a mechanical mechanism that swings and scans the vibrator unit
33. Specifically, the scanning mechanism 82 is configured by a drive motor and a swinging
mechanism.
A drive signal from a driver 86 is supplied to the drive motor, and a control signal from a scan
control unit 88 is sent to the driver 86. The position detector 84 is a detector that detects the
swinging position of the transducer unit 33 that is swung and scanned by the scanning
mechanism 82. The detection signal is output to the scan control unit 88.
[0044]
The scan control unit 88 controls both the mechanical scan and the electronic scan, and controls
the scan mechanism 82 via the driver 86 as shown, and the transmit beam former 70 from the
scan control unit 88, the receiving beam A control signal is output to the formers 72, 74.
[0045]
Here, the transmit beam former 70 is a circuit that forms a transmit beam 64 as shown in FIG. 5
by supplying transmit signals to a plurality of transducer elements.
The reception beam former 72 is a circuit that performs so-called phasing addition on a plurality
of reception signals output from the piezoelectric elements forming the A group to form
reception beams. Similarly to this, the reception beam former 74 is a circuit that performs a
phasing addition process on a plurality of reception signals from a plurality of piezoelectric
elements constituting the B group to form a reception beam. Respective reception signals after
phasing addition output from the reception beam formers 72 and 74 are temporarily stored in
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the three-dimensional echo data memory as needed, and the reception signals are read out to
form a three-dimensional image. Used for The circuit configuration shown in FIG. 6 is an
example, and various other circuit configurations can be adopted.
[0046]
As described above, according to the present invention, it is possible to improve the frame rate
when acquiring echo data for a three-dimensional area. Also, according to the present invention,
it is possible to simultaneously form a plurality of receive beams in the elevation direction.
[0047]
Brief description of the drawings
[0048]
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a transducer unit according to the present embodiment.
[0049]
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a transducer unit according to another embodiment.
[0050]
3 is a cross-sectional view of the transducer unit shown in FIG.
[0051]
4 is a cross-sectional view of the transducer unit shown in FIG.
[0052]
FIG. 5 shows the patterns of two receive and transmit beams.
[0053]
FIG. 6 is a block diagram showing the main configuration of an ultrasonic diagnostic apparatus.
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[0054]
Explanation of sign
[0055]
8, 33 vibrator unit, 12 piezoelectric element array, 16 first matching layer array, 20 second
matching layer array, 22, 24 laminate (vibrating element), 30 backing layer, 32 acoustic lens.
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