Evaluation of Stone Features That Cause the Color Doppler Ultrasound Twinkling Artifact

Eric Rokni, Scott Zinck, Julianna C. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The color Doppler ultrasound twinkling artifact is a rapid color shift that appears on 43%–96% of kidney stones. Surface microbubbles on kidney stones are theorized to cause twinkling as exposure to elevated static pressures of 0.41–1.13 MPa (approximately 0.5–1 times diagnostic ultrasound pressure and 5–10 times ambient pressure) reduced twinkling. However, it is unclear what external and internal stone features support bubbles. Thirteen ex vivo kidney stones were scanned with color Doppler ultrasound at 2.5, 5 and 18.5 MHz. Select stones were imaged with environmental scanning electron microscopy or underwater micro-computed tomography to evaluate features that may cause twinkling. Results revealed that the lower frequencies produced larger volumes of twinkling. Condensation first occurred in the smallest (∼1 µm diameter) surface pores and may be indicative of where bubbles form. Gas pockets were seen inside two of three tested stones that may contribute to twinkling. Overall, these results provide evidence of cavity structures both externally and internally and their correlation to the twinkling artifact. This indicates that microbubbles may be present on and within kidney stones and may contribute to the twinkling artifact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1310-1318
Number of pages9
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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