A handheld approach to optoacoustic imaging is essential for the clinical translation. The first 2- and 3-dimensional handheld multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) probes featuring real-time unmixing have recently been developed. Imaging performance of both probes was determined in vitro and in a brain melanoma metastasis mouse model in vivo. T1-weighted MR images were acquired for anatomical reference. The limit of detection of melanoma cells in vitro was significantly lower using the 2D than the 3D probe. The signal decrease was more profound in relation to depth with the 3D versus the 2D probe. Both approaches were capable of imaging the melanoma tumors qualitatively at all time points. Quantitatively, the 2D approach enabled closer anatomical resemblance of the tumor compared to the 3D probe, particularly at depths beyond 3 mm. The 3D probe was shown to be superior for rapid 3D imaging and, thus, holds promise for more superficial target structures.

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