Breast Elastography: How We Do It

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In recent years, the use of elastography in addition to sonography has become a routine clinical tool for the characterization of breast masses. Studies have investigated the improvement of specificity in differentiating benign from malignant breast masses. Therefore, additional use of elastography could help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies in benign breast lesions especially in category IV lesions of the ultrasound breast imaging reporting data system. Ultrasound elastography is a cheap, readily available, useful, quick, noninvasive method, but it needs specific training as well as acknowledging technical and pathological factors, which may influence it. Both strain and acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) methods have been evaluated in breast lesions. Whereas strain elastography results in qualitative imaging of tissue stiffness due to induced compression, ARFI elastography displays quantitative and qualitative information of tissue displacement. A standardized imaging protocol is essential for an adequate and effective examination, also helping reduce the dependence from operators. Furthermore, knowledge of pitfalls that can be encountered when ultrasound elastography is performed may help avoid erroneous image interpretation. In this article, we describe a practical examination protocol for both strain and ARFI elastography and demonstrate the elastographic imaging findings in benign and malignant breast lesions. Short video clips displaying the technique are included as supplementary material.

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