Optoacoustic imaging is an emerging medical technology that uniquely combines the absorption contrast of optical imaging and the penetration depth of ultrasound. While it is not currently employed as a clinical imaging modality, the results of current research strongly support the use of optoacoustic-based methods in medical imaging. One such application is the diagnosis of the presence of soft tissue foreign bodies. Because many radiolucent foreign bodies have sufficient contrast for imaging in the optical domain, laser-induced optoacoustic imaging could be advantageous for the detection of such objects. Common foreign bodies have been scanned over a range of visible and near infrared wavelengths by using an optoacoustic method to obtain the spectroscopic properties of the materials commonly associated with these foreign bodies. The derived optical absorption spectra compared quite closely to the absorption spectra generated when using a conventional spectrophotometer. By using the probe-beam deflection technique, a novel, pressure-wave detection method, we successfully generated optoacoustic spectroscopic plots of a wooden foreign body embedded in a tissue phantom, which closely resembled the spectrum of the same object obtained in isolation. A practical application of such spectra is to assemble a library of spectroscopic data for radiolucent materials, from which specific characteristic wavelengths can be selected for use in optimizing imaging instrumentation and provide a basis for the identification of the material properties of particular foreign bodies.

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