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Imaging and estimation of tissue elasticity by ultrasound.

by Brian Stephen Garra
Ultrasound quarterly ()
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Ultrasound (US) elasticity imaging is an extension of the ancient art of palpation and of earlier US methods for viewing tissue stiffness such as echopalpation. Elasticity images consist of either an image of strain in response to force or an image of estimated elastic modulus. There are 3 main types of US elasticity imaging: elastography that tracks tissue movement during compression to obtain an estimate of strain, sonoelastography that uses color Doppler to generate an image of tissue movement in response to external vibrations, and tracking of shear wave propagation through tissue to obtain the elastic modulus. Other modalities may be used for elasticity imaging, the most powerful being magnetic resonance elastography. With 4 commercial US scanners already offering elastography and more to follow, US-based methods may be the most widely used for the near future. Elasticity imaging is possible for nearly every tissue. Breast mass elastography has potential for enhancing the specificity of US and mammography for cancer detection. Lesions in the thyroid, prostate gland, pancreas, and lymph nodes have been successfully imaged using elastography. Evaluation of diffuse disease including cirrhosis and transplant rejection is also possible using both imaging and nonimaging methods. Vascular imaging including myocardium, blood vessel wall, plaque, and venous thrombi has also shown great potential. Elasticity imaging may also be important in assessing the progress of ablation therapy. Recent work in assessing porous materials using elastography suggests that the technique may be useful in monitoring the severity of lymphedema.

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