Limitations of quantitative photoacoustic measurements of blood oxygenation in small vessels
We investigate the feasibility of obtaining accurate quantitative information, such as local blood oxygenation level (sO_2), with a spatial resolution of about 50 µm from spectral photoacoustic (PA) measurements. The optical wavelength dependence of the peak values of the PA signals is utilized to obtain the local blood oxygenation level. In our in vitro experimental models, the PA signal amplitude is found to be linearly proportional to the blood optical absorption coefficient when using ultrasonic transducers with central frequencies high enough such that the ultrasonic wavelengths are shorter than the light penetration depth into the blood vessels. For an optical wavelength in the 578–596 nm region, with a transducer central frequency that is above 25 MHz, the sensitivity and accuracy of sO_2 inversion is shown to be better than 4%. The effect of the transducer focal position on the accuracy of quantifying blood oxygenation is found to be negligible. In vivo oxygenation measurements of rat skin microvasculature yield results consistent with those from in vitro studies, although factors specific to in vivo measurements, such as the spectral dependence of tissue optical attenuation, dramatically affect the accuracy of sO_2 quantification in vivo.