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Physics in Medicine and Biology,Vol.55, (19), 2010, pp.5965-5983. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/55/19/022 Available from the publisher here


The accuracy of a transient elastography liver-scanning ultrasound system was assessed using a novel application of PVA-cryogel as a tissue-mimicking material with acoustic and shear elasticity properties optimized to best represent those of liver tissue. Although the liver scanning system has been shown to offer a safer alternative for diagnosing liver cirrhosis through stiffness measurement, as compared to the liver needle biopsy exam, the scanner’s accuracy has not been fully established. The Young’s elastic modulus values of 5-6wt% PVA cryogel phantoms, also containing glycerol and 0.3μm Al2O3 and 3μm Al2O3, were measured using a ‘gold standard’ mechanical testing technique and transient elastography. The mechanically measured values and acoustic velocities of the phantoms ranged between 1.6 16.1kPa and 1540 1570m/s, respectively, mimicking those observed in liver tissue. The values reported by the transient elastography system overestimated the Young’s elastic modulus values representative of the progressive stages of liver fibrosis by up to 32%. These results were attributed to the relative rather than absolute nature of the measurement arising from the single-point acoustic velocity calibration of the system, rendering the measurements critically dependent on the speed of sound of the sample under investigation. Given the wide range of acoustic velocities which exist in the liver, spanning healthy tissue to cirrhotic pathology, coupled with the system’s assumption that the liver is approximately elastic when it is rather highly viscoelastic, care should be exercised when interpreting the results from this system in patient groups.


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