To investigate whether multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) developed for deep-tissue imaging in humans could enable the clinical assessment of major blood vessels and microvasculature.

Materials and Methods
The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University Medical Center Groningen (CCMO-NL-43587) and registered in the Dutch National Trial Registry (NTR4125). The authors designed a real-time handheld optoacoustic scanner for human use, based on a concave 8-MHz transducer array, attaining 135° angular coverage. They applied a single-pulse-frame (SPF) sequence, which enabled motion insensitive optoacoustic imaging during handheld operation. SPF optoacoustic imaging was applied to imaging arteries and microvascular landmarks in the lower extremities of 10 healthy volunteers. The diameters selected microvessels were determined by measuring the full width at half maximum through the vessels in the MSOT images. Duplex ultrasonography was performed on the same landmarks in seven of the 10 volunteers for subjective comparison to the corresponding optoacoustic images.

Optoacoustic imaging resolved blood vessels as small as 100 µm in diameter and within 1 cm depth. Additionally, MSOT provided images reflecting hemoglobin oxygen saturation in blood vessels, clearly identifying arteries and veins, and was able to identify pulsation in arteries during imaging. Larger blood vessels, specifically the tibialis posterior and the dorsalis pedis arteries, were also visualized with MSOT.

Handheld MSOT was found to be capable of clinical vascular imaging, providing visualization of major blood vessels and microvasculature and providing images of hemoglobin oxygen saturation and pulsation.