Ultrasound Time-Harmonic Elastography of the Pancreas: Reference Values and Clinical Feasibility

Invest Radiol. 2020 May;55(5):270-276. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000638.


Objectives: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a very aggressive tumor with a very low 5-year survival rate of 8%. The aims of this study are to determine reference values and physiologic confounders in healthy pancreas and to assess the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound time-harmonic elastography (THE) in the detection of PDAC.

Materials and methods: From March 2017 through May 2019, a total of 54 study participants with healthy pancreas (n = 33, CTR) or PDAC (n = 21) were prospectively enrolled. Repeatability of THE was tested in a CTR subgroup (n = 5) undergoing repeat measurement on 4 different days. Interobserver variability was analyzed in 10 healthy volunteers. Age-matched and sex-matched subgroups of CTR (n = 13) and PDAC (n = 13) were compared. In participants with histopathologically proven PDAC, measurements were performed separately in tumorous (PDAC-T) and nontumorous pancreatic tissue (PDAC-NT). Diagnostic performance of pancreatic THE was assessed by receiver operating characteristic curve analysis.

Results: Time-harmonic elastography was highly repeatable (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.99), and interobserver agreement was excellent (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.97). Shear wave speed (SWS) of PDAC-T (mean [95% confidence interval] in meters per second, 1.88 ± 0.07 [1.84-1.92]) was higher than SWS of CTR (1.63 ± 0.04 [1.60-1.66], P < 0.001) and PDAC-NT (1.59 ± 0.03 [1.57-1.61], P < 0.001). The exploratory diagnostic performance of THE in separating PDAC-T was excellent (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve, 1.0). Tumorous pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma was distinguished from CTR and PDAC-NT with cutoff values of 1.73 m/s and 1.70 m/s, respectively.

Conclusions: Pancreatic ultrasound THE has high repeatability and provides excellent imaging contrast based on SWS, allowing detection of PDAC without overlap to nontumorous pancreatic tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / diagnosis*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreas / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • ROC Curve
  • Reference Values
  • Young Adult