Three-dimensional Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging on an Automated Breast Volume Scanning System

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Ultrasound elasticity imaging has demonstrated utility in breast imaging, but it is typically performed with handheld transducers and two-dimensional imaging. Two-dimensional (2D) elastography images tissue stiffness of only a plane and hence suffers from errors due to out-of-plane motion, whereas three-dimensional (3D) data acquisition and motion tracking can be used to track out-of-plane motion that is lost in 2D elastography systems. A commercially available automated breast volume scanning system that acquires 3D ultrasound data with precisely controlled elevational movement of the 1D array ultrasound transducer was employed in this study. A hybrid guided 3D motion-tracking algorithm was developed that first estimated the displacements in one plane using a modified quality-guided search method, and then performed an elevational guided-search for displacement estimation in adjacent planes. To assess the performance of the method, 3D radiofrequency echo data were acquired with this system from a phantom and from an in vivo human breast. For both experiments, the axial displacement fields were smooth and high cross-correlation coefficients were obtained in most of the tracking region. The motion-tracking performance of the new method was compared with a correlation-based exhaustive-search method. For all motion-tracking volume pairs, the average motion-compensated cross-correlation values obtained by the guided-search motion-tracking method were equivalent to those by the exhaustive-search method, and the computation time was about a factor of 10 lesser. Therefore, the proposed 3D ultrasound elasticity imaging method was a more efficient approach to produce a high quality of 3D ultrasound strain image.

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