Mechanical index

The mechanical index (MI) is an attempt to measure part of an ultrasound beam's bioeffects. The MI is found on most ultrasound display screens, along with the thermal index.

Mechanical index is proportional to an ultrasound beam's peak negative pressure (or peak rarefaction pressure).

It is also inversely proportional to the frequency of the beam. Therefore, higher frequencies have a lower mechanical index.

Mechanical index = peak negative pressure / √(center frequency of the US beam)

MI is an indication of an ultrasound beam's ability to cause cavitation-related bioeffects, and this is currently thought a reasonable proxy for micromechanical damage. It is "strictly a cavitation index," but is meant to be interpreted more broadly as tissue mechanical stress/damage.

Theoretically, if one wished to decrease the mechanical index in a study, one should:

  • set the focal zone further away from the transducer
  • decrease the ultrasound beam output

In the U.S. the FDA mandates that the MI be kept below 1.9.

Interestingly, a consequence of the relationship between frequency and cavitation is that different bubble sizes are susceptible to cavitation at different frequencies. Two different ultrasound frequencies (e.g. 4 MHz and 9 MHz) cavitate bubbles of different sizes. This is important in contrast-enhanced ultrasound, where cavitation of the bubbles is desired. 

Ultrasound - general index
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Article Information

rID: 32610
Section: Physics
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • MI

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