Elastography is a medical imaging technique that explores the elasticity and hardness of body tissues. It is based on the same principle that the very old method of palpation is based upon as well: the level of hardness or softness of a tissue or an organ (eg liver) is an indication for the presence of disease, e.g. the malignant tumors are harder than the healthy parenchyma that surrounds them, as is the cirrhotic liver compared to the healthy one.
The ultrasound elastography is performed with ultrasound during a simple ultrasound examination. With ultrasound elastography diagnostic information is added to the simple ultrasound with which the physician can determine:
- the elasticity or hardness of the parenchyma of an organ,
- the difference of elasticity or hardness between different parts of the same body,
- the difference of elasticity or hardness in a focal deterioration located in a parenchymetiko organ e.g. nodule on the thyroid gland.
Based on this information, the doctor can draw conclusions about the existence or not of a damage – either focal or diffuse – and make an initial determination without using invasive biopsy.
Which instruments are examined with ultrasound elastography?
The ultrasound elastography examinations of the following organs are now established and approved by the European Confederation of Societies of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology EFSUMB (European Federation Of Societies in Medicine and Biology), the most approved dissemination organization and control of ultrasound medical procedures worldwide:
- protective gland
Nevertheless, there are hopes for the contribution of ultrasound elastography in exploration and early identification of atherosclerosis of blood vessels, i.e. the underlying condition that leads to heart attacks and ischemic strokes.
In which cases does my doctor refer me for ultrasound elastography?
- Hepatic nodule characterization – malignancy exclusion
- Differentiation diagnosis (distinction – clarification) between liposis and liver fibrosis
- Differentiation diagnosis (distinction – clarification) between fibrosis and liver cirrhosis
- Thyroid nodule characterization / nodules – exclusion of malignancy
- Breast nodule characterization – exclusion of malignancy
- Differentiation diagnosis (distinction – clarification) between the suspect for malignancy and normal prostate tissue (transrectal ultrasound)
At Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center we specialize in the ultrasound elastography of liver and thyroid.
What is the examination procedure?
The process is very simple. The ultrasound elastography does not require any particular preparation. The examination is performed in the Ultrasound clinic of the Medical Imaging Laboratory by one of the department’s doctor with special training, and with the use of high technology ultrasound system. The examination is painless as all the ultrasound examinations are. The ultrasound elastography is performed during the simple examination and increases the overall duration for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the organ and the lesion examined.
During the examination, the examinee is usually lying down. For better dissemination of ultrasound, the doctor spreads a special gel on the skin area to be tested. Upon completion of the examination, the examinee can leave immediately.
The vascular ultrasound examinations, as all ultrasound examinations are biologically harmless, because it does not burden the patient with radiation.