Shear Wave Elastography, a New Tool for Diaphragmatic Qualitative Assessment: A Translational Study

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Oct 1;204(7):797-806. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202011-4086OC.


Rationale: Prolonged mechanical ventilation is often associated with either a decrease (known atrophy) or an increase (supposed injury) in diaphragmatic thickness. Shear wave elastography is a noninvasive technique that measures shear modulus, a surrogate of tissue stiffness and mechanical properties. Objectives: To describe changes in shear modulus (SM) during the ICU stay and the relationship with alterations in muscle thickness. To perform a comprehensive ultrasound-based characterization of histological and force production changes occurring in the diaphragm. Methods: Translational study using critically ill patients and mechanically ventilated piglets. Serial ultrasound examination of the diaphragm collecting thickness and SM was performed in both patients and piglets. Transdiaphragmatic pressure and diaphragmatic biopsies were collected in piglets. Measurements and Main Results: We enrolled 102 patients, 88 of whom were invasively mechanically ventilated. At baseline, SM was 14.3 ± 4.3 kPa and diaphragm end-expiratory thickness was 2.0 ± 0.5 mm. Decrease or increase by more than 10% from baseline was reported in 86% of the patients for thickness and in 92% of the patients for SM. An increase in diaphragmatic thickness during the stay was associated with a decrease in SM (β = -9.34 ± 4.41; P = 0.03) after multivariable analysis. In the piglet sample, a decrease in SM over 3 days of mechanical ventilation was associated with loss of force production, slow and fast fiber atrophy, and increased lipid droplets accumulation. Conclusions: Increases in diaphragm thickness during critical illness is associated with decreased tissue stiffness as demonstrated by shear wave ultrasound elastography, consistent with the development of muscle injury and weakness. Clinical trial registered with (NCT03550222).

Keywords: diaphragmatic dysfunction; diaphragmatic ultrasonography; mechanical ventilation; transdiaphragmatic pressure.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biopsy
  • Critical Illness
  • Diaphragm / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diaphragm / pathology
  • Diaphragm / physiopathology
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Swine
  • Translational Research, Biomedical

Associated data