Color Doppler sonography of the lateral thoracic (breast-feeding) arteries: a new approach to the diagnosis of breast disease?

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The main arteries to the breast are the lateral thoracic artery and to a lesser extent the internal thoracic artery. In this prospective open diagnostic study involving 94 women, we compared the intraindividual differences of Doppler indices in the lateral thoracic (breast-feeding) artery of breasts affected by cancer with those unaffected by disease.


Sixty-seven consecutive patients were recruited from an outpatient unit for breast surgery and 27 volunteers were studied who were known to be without any breast disease (controls). In each patient we attempted to obtain Doppler indices from the lateral thoracic artery of both breasts. The difference in Doppler indices in each individual was assessed and statistical analysis was performed to assess whether these differences were significantly altered in women with cancer compared to healthy women.


Lateral thoracic arteries could be visualized in 88% of the study population. Significantly lower values for pulsatility and resistance indices and systolic/diastolic ratios were obtained in the lateral thoracic arteries of breasts affected by cancer as compared to the contralateral breasts (1.73 ± 0.39 vs. 2.05 ± 0.47, P = 0.003; 0.78 ± 0.06 vs. 0.84 ± 0.06, P < 0.0001; 4.71 ± 1.24 vs. 6.75 ± 3.38, P = 0.0008, respectively). Using the intraindividual difference of pulsatility index, resistance index and systolic/diastolic ratio to screen for malignancy, sensitivities for breast cancer of 78%, 85% and 83%, respectively, were achieved. Depending on the cut-off level, specificity reached 94%.


The intraindividual difference in Doppler indices in women with breast cancer may be a useful test for the diagnosis of breast lesions.

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