Evaluation of Thyroid Nodules
In clinical practice, an overwhelming majority of biopsied thyroid nodules are benign. Therefore, there is a need for a complementary and noninvasive imaging tool to provide clinically relevant diagnostic information about thyroid nodules to reduce the rate of unnecessary biopsies. The goal of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of utilizing comb-push ultrasound shear elastography (CUSE) to measure the mechanical properties (i.e., stiffness) of thyroid nodules and use this information to help classify nodules as benign or malignant. CUSE is a fast and robust 2-D shear elastography technique in which multiple laterally distributed acoustic radiation force beams are utilized simultaneously to produce shear waves. Unlike other shear elasticityimaging modalities, CUSE does not suffer from limited field of view (FOV) due to shear wave attenuation and can provide a large FOV at high frame rates.
To evaluate the utility of CUSE in thyroid imaging, a preliminary study was performed on a group of five healthy volunteers and 10 patients with ultrasound-detected thyroid nodules prior to fine needle aspiration biopsy. The measured shear wave speeds in normal thyroid tissue and thyroid nodules were converted to Young’s modulus (E), indicating a measure of tissue stiffness. Our results indicate an increase in E for thyroid nodules compared to normal thyroid tissue. This increase was significantly higher in malignant nodules compared to benign. The Young’s modulus in normal thyroid tissue, benign and malignant nodules were found to be 23.2 ±8.29 kPa, 91.2±34.8 kPa, and 173.0±17.1 kPa, respectively. Results of this study suggest the utility of CUSE in differentiating between benign and malignant thyroid nodules.
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