International Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery (2018) 13:759–767
SUPRA: open-source software-deﬁned ultrasound processing for
A 2D and 3D pipeline from beamforming to B-mode
· Nassir Navab
· Christoph Hennersperger
Received: 27 January 2018 / Accepted: 22 March 2018 / Published online: 28 March 2018
© CARS 2018
Purpose Research in ultrasound imaging is limited in reproducibility by two factors: First, many existing ultrasound pipelines
are protected by intellectual property, rendering exchange of code difﬁcult. Second, most pipelines are implemented in special
hardware, resulting in limited ﬂexibility of implemented processing steps on such platforms.
Methods With SUPRA, we propose an open-source pipeline for fully software-deﬁned ultrasound processing for real-time
applications to alleviate these problems. Covering all steps from beamforming to output of B-mode images, SUPRA can
help improve the reproducibility of results and make modiﬁcations to the image acquisition mode accessible to the research
community. We evaluate the pipeline qualitatively, quantitatively, and regarding its run time.
Results The pipeline shows image quality comparable to a clinical system and backed by point spread function measurements
a comparable resolution. Including all processing stages of a usual ultrasound pipeline, the run-time analysis shows that it
can be executed in 2D and 3D on consumer GPUs in real time.
Conclusions Our software ultrasound pipeline opens up the research in image acquisition. Given access to ultrasound data
from early stages (raw channel data, radiofrequency data), it simpliﬁes the development in imaging. Furthermore, it tackles the
reproducibility of research results, as code can be shared easily and even be executed without dedicated ultrasound hardware.
Keywords Ultrasound imaging · Open source · GPU programming · 2D · 3D
Ultrasound (US) imaging is used in a wide variety of
applications and complements modalities such as computed
tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It enables noninvasive, low-cost acquisition of anatomi-
cal, dynamical, as well as functional information while
being highly portable. Because of this, there is a trend to
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation program EDEN2020 under Grant
Agreement No. 688279.
Computer Aided Medical Procedures, Technische Universität
München, Boltzmannstr. 3, 85748 Garching, Germany
Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street,
Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
replace MRI and especially CT with US imaging when
The image acquisition process of US can be broken down
into several steps forming a pipeline.
– First, an ultrasonic pulse modulated with a chosen fre-
quency is generated in the tissue through precisely
orchestrated electrical excitation of piezo-transducer ele-
ments (transmit beamforming).
– The echos induced by this pulse in the tissue are con-
verted to electrical signals by the transducer elements
and commonly stored digitally (receive).
– After that, the signals are used to compute how they
would have been received from one single line, where the
data from different channels are delayed such that scat-
tered signals from that line are intensiﬁed by constructive
interference and echoes from other positions are reduced
through destructive interference (receive beamforming)