US Time-Harmonic Elastography for the Early Detection of Glomerulonephritis

Radiology. 2019 Sep;292(3):676-684. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2019182574. Epub 2019 Jul 9.


Background Glomerulonephritis refers to renal diseases characterized by glomerular and tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Multifrequency US time-harmonic elastography enables the noninvasive quantification of tissue elasticity. Purpose To assess the diagnostic performance of US time-harmonic elastography for the early detection of glomerulonephritis. Materials and Methods From August 2016 through May 2017, study participants with biopsy-proven glomerulonephritis were prospectively examined with US time-harmonic elastography. Participants were subdivided according to chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage. All participants underwent elastography of both kidneys to generate full-field-of-view maps of renal shear wave speed (SWS). SWS was determined separately for the whole renal parenchyma, cortex, and medulla and was correlated with quantitative B-mode findings such as renal length and parenchymal thickness. Diagnostic performance of renal elastography was assessed with receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. Results Fifty-three participants with glomerulonephritis (mean age ± standard deviation, 49 years ± 14) and 30 healthy volunteers (mean age, 37 years ± 11) were evaluated. Age-adjusted renal SWS was lower in participants with glomerulonephritis than in healthy volunteers in the parenchyma, cortex, and medulla, with mean values of 1.55 m/sec (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.51 m/sec, 1.59 m/sec) and 1.69 m/sec (95% CI: 1.64 m/sec, 1.74 m/sec; P < .001), respectively, in parenchyma, 1.80 m/sec (95% CI: 1.75 m/sec, 1.84 m/sec) and 2.08 m/sec (95% CI: 2.02 m/sec, 2.13 m/sec; P < .001) in cortex, and 1.25 m/sec (95% CI: 1.21 m/sec, 1.29 m/sec) and 1.33 (95% CI: 1.27 m/sec, 1.38 m/sec; P = .03) in medulla. Age-adjusted renal cortex SWS was lower in participants with glomerulonephritis and stage 1 CKD (preserved renal function) than in healthy volunteers (mean, 1.88 [95% CI: 1.81, 1.96] vs 2.08 [95% CI: 2.02, 2.13]; P < .001). In participants with CKD, renal cortex SWS values showed a positive association with estimated glomerular filtration rate (n = 39; r = 0.56; P < .001). Exploratory diagnostic performance of US time-harmonic elastography (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC], 0.89; 95% CI: 0.82, 0.97) outperformed that of B-mode parameters such as parenchymal thickness (AUC, 0.64; 95% CI: 0.51, 0.77; P < .001) and renal length (AUC, 0.55; 95% CI: 0.40, 0.68; P < .001) in identifying glomerulonephritis. Conclusion US time-harmonic elastography depicts abnormal renal stiffness in glomerulonephritis, particularly among patients with early disease and preserved renal function. Advanced chronic kidney disease is associated with further cortical softening. Time-harmonic elastography outperforms B-mode-based size quantification. © RSNA, 2019 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Glomerulonephritis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Young Adult