Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a reference technique for diagnosing and staging several different diseases. EUS-guided biopsies and fine needle aspirations are used to improve diagnostic performance of cases where a definitive diagnosis cannot be obtained through conventional EUS. However, EUS-guided tissue sampling requires experience and is associated with a low but not negligible risk of complications. EUS elastography is a non-invasive method that can be used in combination with conventional EUS and has the potential for improving the diagnostic accuracy and reducing the need for EUS-guided tissue sampling in several situations. Elastography measures tissue stiffness by evaluating changes in the EUS image before and after the application of slight pressure to the target tissue by the ultrasonography probe. Pathologic processes such as cancerization and fibrosis alter tissue elasticity and therefore induce changes in elastographic appearance. Qualitative elastography depicts tissue stiffness using different colors, whereas quantitative elastography renders numerical results expressed as a strain ratio or hue histogram mean. EUS elastography has been proven to differentiate between benign and malignant solid pancreatic masses, as well as between benign and malignant lymph nodes with a high accuracy. Studies have also demonstrated that the early changes of chronic pancreatitis can be distinguished from normal pancreatic tissues under EUS elastography. In this article, we review the technical aspects and current clinical applications of qualitative and quantitative EUS elastography and emphasize the potential additional indications that need to be evaluated in future clinical studies.
Keywords: elastography; endoscopic ultrasound; lymph nodes; pancreatic tumors.