Photoacoustic computed tomography (PACT) is a hybrid technique that combines optical excitation and ultrasonic detection to provide high-resolution images in deep tissues. In the image reconstruction, a constant speed of sound (SOS) is normally assumed. This assumption, however, is often not strictly satisfied in deep tissue imaging, due to acoustic heterogeneities within the object and between the object and the coupling medium. If these heterogeneities are not accounted for, they will cause distortions and artifacts in the reconstructed images. In this Letter, we incorporated ultrasonic computed tomography (USCT), which measures the SOS distribution within the object, into our full-ring array PACT system. Without the need for ultrasonic transmitting electronics, USCT was performed using the same laser beam as for PACT measurement. By scanning the laser beam on the array surface, we can sequentially fire different elements. As a first demonstration of the system, we studied the effect of acoustic heterogeneities on photoacoustic vascular imaging. We verified that constant SOS is a reasonable approximation when the SOS variation is small. When the variation is large, distortion will be observed in the periphery of the object, especially in the tangential direction.
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