Medical ultrasound imaging has advanced dramatically since its introduction only a few decades ago. This paper provides a short historical background, and then briefly describes many of the system features and concepts required in a modern commercial ultrasound system. The topics addressed include array beam formation, steering and focusing; array and matrix transducers; echo image formation; tissue harmonic imaging; speckle reduction through frequency and spatial compounding, and image processing; tissue aberration; Doppler flow detection; and system architectures. It then describes some of the more practical aspects of ultrasound system design necessary to be taken into account for today's marketplace. It finally discusses the recent explosion of portable and handheld devices and their potential to expand the clinical footprint of ultrasound into regions of the world where medical care is practically non-existent. Throughout the article reference is made to ways in which ultrasound imaging has benefited from advances in the commercial electronics industry. It is meant to be an overview of the field as an introduction to other more detailed papers in this special issue.
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