Time-Harmonic Ultrasound elastography of the Descending Abdominal Aorta: Initial Results

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2017 Nov;43(11):2550-2557. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2017.07.001. Epub 2017 Aug 14.


Stiffening of central large vessels is considered a key pathophysiologic factor within the cardiovascular system. Current diagnostic parameters such as pulse wave velocity (PWV) indirectly measure aortic stiffness, a hallmark of coronary diseases. The aim of the present study was to perform elastography of the proximal abdominal aorta based on externally induced time-harmonic shear waves. Experiments were performed in 30 healthy volunteers (25 young, 5 old, >50 y) and 5 patients with longstanding hypertension (PWV >10 m/s). B-Mode-guided sonographic time-harmonic elastography was used for measurement of externally induced shear waves at 30-Hz vibration frequency. Thirty-hertz shear wave amplitudes (SWAs) within the abdominal aorta were measured and displayed in real time and processed offline for differences in SWA between systole and diastole (ΔSWA). Data were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test and receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. The change in SWA over the cardiac cycle was reduced significantly in all patients as assessed with ΔSWA (volunteers: mean = 10 ± 5 μm, patients: mean = 4 ± 1 μm; p < 0.001). The best separation of healthy volunteers from patients was obtained with a ΔSWA threshold of 4.7 μm, resulting in a sensitivity of 0.9 and a specificity of 1.0, with an overall area under the curve of 0.96. Time harmonic elastography of the abdominal aorta is feasible and shows promise for the exploitation of time-varying shear wave amplitudes as a diagnostic marker for aortic wall stiffening. Patients with elevated PWVs suggesting increased aortic wall stiffness were best identified by ΔSWA-a parameter that could be related to the ability of the vessel walls to distend on passages of the pulse wave.

Keywords: Aorta; Arterial stiffness; Elastography; Hypertension; Sonoelastography; Time-harmonic shear waves; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aorta, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta, Abdominal / physiopathology
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity