Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is increasingly being used for high-resolution biological imaging at depth. Signal-to-noise ratios and resolution are the main factors that determine image quality. Various reconstruction algorithms have been proposed and applied to reduce noise and enhance resolution, but the efficacy of signal preprocessing methods which also affect image quality, are seldom discussed. We, therefore, compared common preprocessing techniques, namely bandpass filters, wavelet denoising, empirical mode decomposition, and singular value decomposition. Each was compared with and without accounting for sensor directivity. The denoising performance was evaluated with the contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), and the resolution was calculated as the full width at half maximum (FWHM) in both the lateral and axial directions. In the phantom experiment, counting in directivity was found to significantly reduce noise, outperforming other methods. Irrespective of directivity, the best performing methods for denoising were bandpass, unfiltered, SVD, wavelet, and EMD, in that order. Only bandpass filtering consistently yielded improvements. Significant improvements in the lateral resolution were observed using directivity in two out of three acquisitions. This study investigated the advantages and disadvantages of different preprocessing methods and may help to determine better practices in PAT reconstruction.

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