Performance evaluation of commercial and non-commercial shear wave elastography implementations for vascular applications

Judith T. Pruijssen*, Floris H.B.M. Schreuder, Joyce Wilbers, Johannes H.A.M. Kaanders, Chris L. de Korte, Hendrik H.G. Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Shear wave elastography (SWE) is mainly used for stiffness estimation of large, homogeneous tissues, such as the liver and breasts. However, little is known about its accuracy and applicability in thin (∼0.5–2 mm) vessel walls. To identify possible performance differences among vendors, we quantified differences in measured wave velocities obtained by commercial SWE implementations of various vendors over different imaging depths in a vessel-mimicking phantom. For reference, we measured SWE values in the cylindrical inclusions and homogeneous background of a commercial SWE phantom. Additionally, we compared the accuracy between a research implementation and the commercially available clinical SWE on an Aixplorer ultrasound system in phantoms and in vivo in patients. Methods: SWE measurements were performed over varying depths (0–35 mm) using three ultrasound machines with four ultrasound probes in the homogeneous 20 kPa background and cylindrical targets of 10, 40, and 60 kPa of a multi-purpose phantom (CIRS-040GSE) and in the anterior and posterior wall of a homogeneous polyvinyl alcohol vessel-mimicking phantom. These phantom data, along with in vivo SWE data of carotid arteries in 23 patients with a (prior) head and neck neoplasm, were also acquired in the research and clinical mode of the Aixplorer ultrasound machine. Machine-specific estimated phantom stiffness values (CIRS phantom) or wave velocities (vessel phantom) over all depths were visualized, and the relative error to the reference values and inter-frame variability (interquartile range/median) were calculated. Correlations between SWE values and target/vessel wall depth were explored in phantoms and in vivo using Spearman's correlations. Differences in wave velocities between the anterior and posterior arterial wall were assessed with Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. Intra-class correlation coefficients were calculated for a sample of ten patients as a measure of intra- and interobserver reproducibility of SWE analyses in research and clinical mode. Results: There was a high variability in obtained SWE values among ultrasound machines, probes, and, in some cases, with depth. Compared to the homogeneous CIRS-background, this variation was more pronounced for the inclusions and the vessel-mimicking phantom. Furthermore, higher stiffnesses were generally underestimated. In the vessel-mimicking phantom, anterior wave velocities were (incorrectly) higher than posterior wave velocities (3.4–5.6 m/s versus 2.9–5.9 m/s, p ≤ 0.005 for 3/4 probes) and remarkably correlated with measurement depth for most machines (Spearman's ρ = -0.873–0.969, p < 0.001 for 3/4 probes). In the Aixplorer's research mode, this difference was smaller (3.3–3.9 m/s versus 3.2–3.6 m/s, p = 0.005) and values did not correlate with measurement depth (Spearman's ρ = 0.039–0.659, p ≥ 0.002). In vivo, wave velocities were higher in the posterior than the anterior vessel wall in research (left p = 0.001, right p < 0.001) but not in clinical mode (left: p = 0.114, right: p = 0.483). Yet, wave velocities correlated with vessel wall depth in clinical (Spearman's ρ = 0.574–0.698, p < 0.001) but not in research mode (Spearman's ρ = -0.080–0.466, p ≥ 0.003). Conclusions: We observed more variation in SWE values among ultrasound machines and probes in tissue with high stiffness and thin-walled geometry than in low stiffness, homogeneous tissue. Together with a depth-correlation in some machines, where carotid arteries have a fixed location, this calls for caution in interpreting SWE results in clinical practice for vascular applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107312
Number of pages15
Early online date6 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Arteries
  • Phantom
  • Shear wave elastography
  • Ultrasound


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