Influence of Tissue Microstructure on Shear Wave Speed Measurements in Plane Shear Wave Elastography: A Computational Study in Lossless Fibrotic Liver Media

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Abstract

Shear wave elastography (SWE) has been used to measure viscoelastic properties for characterization of fibrotic livers. In this technique, external mechanical vibrations or acoustic radiation forces are first transmitted to the tissue being imaged to induce shear waves. Ultrasonically measured displacement/velocity is then utilized to obtain elastographic measurements related to shear wave propagation. Using an open-source wave simulator, k-Wave, we conducted a case study of the relationship between plane shear wave measurements and the microstructure of fibrotic liver tissues. Particularly, three different virtual tissue models (i.e., a histology-based model, a statistics-based model, and a simple inclusion model) were used to represent underlying microstructures of fibrotic liver tissues. We found underlying microstructures affected the estimated mean group shear wave speed (SWS) under the plane shear wave assumption by as much as 56%. Also, the elastic shear wave scattering resulted in frequency-dependent attenuation coefficients and introduced changes in the estimated group SWS. Similarly, the slope of group SWS changes with respect to the excitation frequency differed as much as 78% among three models investigated. This new finding may motivate further studies examining how elastic scattering may contribute to frequency-dependent shear wave dispersion and attenuation in biological tissues.

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