Abstract Background In ultrasound plane wave imaging (PWI), image details are often blurred by the off-axis artefacts resulting from high sidelobe. Recently plane wave compounding (PWC) is proposed as a promising technique for the sidelobe suppression in the PWI. However, its high demand for the frame number results in an obvious frame rate loss, which is intolerable in the ultrafast imaging modality. To reduce the number of frames required for compounding, coherence in the compounding frames should be exploited. Methods In this paper, we propose a global effective distance-based sidelobe suppressing method for the PWC with a limited frame number, where the global effective distance is introduced to measure the inter-frame coherence. Specifically, the effective distance is firstly computed by using a sparse representation-based algorithm. Then, the sidelobe localization is carried out on the basis of the effective distance. Finally, the target-dependent weighting factor is adopted to suppress the sidelobe. Results To assert the superiority of our proposed method, we compare the performances of different sidelobe reduction methods on both simulated and experimental PWC data. In case of 5 steering angles, our method shows a 19 dB reduction in the peak sidelobe level compared to the normal PWC in the point spread function test, and the contrast ratio is enhanced by more than 10% in both the simulation and phantom studies. Conclusions Consequently, the proposed method is convinced to be a promising approach in enhancing the PWC image quality
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