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1. (WO2005053538) METHOD
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Claims;

1. Method of processing ultrasound images of lymph nodes from a subject preadministered with an ultrasound contrast agent wherein quantitative measures of the contrast enhancement pattern of said lymph nodes are generated.

2. Method according to claim 1 wherein the ultrasound contrast agent used for preadministration is a particular ultrasound contrast agent.

3. Method according to claim 2 wherein said particular ultrasound contrast agent comprises a matrix material and a gas, a gas precursor or mixtures thereof.

4. Method according to claim 3 wherein said particular ultrasound agent has a mean particle size of about 0.25 - 15 μm in diameter and a pressure stability of at least 50% at a pressure of 120 mm Hg.

5. Method according to claims 1 to 4 wherein said ultrasound images were acquired at one single time point or at different time points.

6. Method according to claims 1 to 5 wherein said ultrasound images were acquired in 2 or 3 spatial dimensions, preferably in 3 spatial dimensions.

7. Method according to claims 1 to 6 wherein the ultrasound images are processed in such a way that grey level histograms are generated from the contrast enhancement pattern of said images.

8. Method according to claim 7 wherein descriptive statistical indices are calculated from the grey level histograms, preferably standard deviation, skewness or kurtosis.

9. Method according to claims 1 to 6 wherein the ultrasound images are processed in such a way that quantitative measures of contrast enhancement pattern coarseness are generated.

10. Method according to claim 9 wherein said processing is based on borderline length measures.

11. Method according to claims 9 and 10 comprising
a) identification of the region of said images which show a lymph node b) segmentation of said region into contrast enhanced and non-enhanced areas, and
c) measuring of the length of the borderline between the enhanced and non- enhanced areas and dividing the obtained measure by the total area of said region.

12. Method according to claims 1 to 6 wherein the ultrasound images are processed in such a way that quantitative measures of the contrast enhancement of the filling pattern are generated.

13. Method according to claim 12 wherein said processing is based on one single image.

14. Method according to claim 13 comprising
a) generating a template based on an image of a normal lymph node
b) geometrically fitting said template to said image of the lymph node from the subject, and
c) calculating the optimal goodness of fit parameter.

15. Method according to claim 12 wherein said processing is based on a series of images.

16. Method according to claim 15 comprising the estimation of temporal and/or spatial deviations of contrast enhancement appearance between peripheral and central regions of said lymph nodes.

17. Method according to claim 15 comprising
a) fitting a model to said lymph nodes with concentric regions from the periphery to the centre
b) calculating the time of contrast enhancement appearance for each of the concentric regions, and
c) calculating the difference in contrast enhancement appearance time.

18. Method according to claims 1 to 6 wherein the ultrasound images are processed in such a way that quantitative measures of the texture of the lymph nodes are generated.

19. Method according to claim 18 comprising
a) selecting a region of interest on said images displaying the lymph nodes from the subject, and
b) analysing the selected region of interest for orientation and spatial frequency of pattern

20. Method according to claim 19 wherein the spatial Fourier transform is calculated in b)

21. Method according to claim 19 wherein the autocorrelation function is calculated in b).

22. Method according to claim 1 to 6 wherein the ultrasound images are processed in such a way that quantitative measures of the contrast enhancement pattern coarseness and the texture of the lymph nodes are generated.

23. Method according to claims 1 to 22 wherein the quantitative measures are used to characterise the lymph nodes as being normal or malignant lymph nodes.

24. Method according to claim 14 wherein the goodness of fit parameter calculated in step c) is compared with a threshold value in order to characterise the lymph node as a normal or malignant lymph node.

25. Method according to claim 17 wherein the results of step c) are used to characterise the lymph node as a normal or malignant lymph node.

26. Method of characterising lymph nodes as being normal or malignant lymph nodes by administering an ultrasound agent to a subject, acquiring ultrasound images of the lymph nodes of said subject and processing said images in such a way that quantitative measures of the contrast enhancement pattern of said lymph nodes are obtained.