Quantification of Aortic Stiffness by Ultrasound Time-Harmonic Elastography: The Effect of Intravascular Pressure on Elasticity Measures in a Porcine Model

Invest Radiol. 2020 Mar;55(3):174-180. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000618.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate blood pressure dependency of ultrasound time-harmonic elastography (THE) for quantification of aortic stiffness.

Materials and methods: Thoracoabdominal aortas were surgically removed from 9 healthy domestic pigs and prepared for elastographic experiments. All vessels were connected to a saline-filled water column with adjustable height and pressurized over a range of 0 to 110 mm Hg in 10 mm Hg increments to simulate different levels of mean arterial pressure. In addition, 3 of the 9 aortas were soaked in 4% buffered formaldehyde for 60 minutes to simulate pathologic aortic stiffening. Ultrasound THE was performed in each vessel at each pressure level. For each pressure level, shear-wave speed (SWS) as a measure of aortic wall stiffness and luminal diameter were recorded. The pressure range between 30 and 110 mm Hg was used for statistical evaluation as it reflects a physiological mean arterial pressure range. Linear regression analysis and multivariate analysis with a general linear model were performed to evaluate the influence of increasing intravascular pressure and vessel diameter on measured SWS.

Results: Median SWS in formalin-soaked aortas was significantly higher with 3.22 m/s (interquartile range [IQR], 0.01 m/s) versus 2.14 m/s (IQR, 0.09) at 30 mm Hg and 3.38 m/s (IQR, 0.01 m/s) versus 2.28 m/s (IQR, 0.07 m/s) at 110 mm Hg (each P = 0.01). Using linear regression analysis, an increase of aortic wall SWS of 0.017 m/s per 10 mm Hg intraluminal pressure was found in untreated aortas, whereas SWS increased by 0.020 m/s per 10 mm Hg in formalin-soaked aortas (both P = 0.001). The percentage of SWS caused by intraluminal pressure was 1.89% in formalin-soaked aortas and 2.50% in untreated aortas at 30 mm Hg and 6.61% for formalin-soaked aortas and 8.60% for untreated aortas at 110 mm Hg. Multivariate analysis showed no significant interaction of luminal diameter and measured SWS (P = 0.893).

Conclusions: In our model, aortic stiffness measurements by ultrasound time-harmonic elastography are influenced to a small extent by mean arterial pressure in a range of 1.89% to 8.60%. These findings emphasize the potential of ultrasound THE for measuring the intrinsic stiffness of the aortic wall in clinical routine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Elasticity / physiology
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Swine
  • Vascular Stiffness / physiology*