To investigate factors influencing the quality of ultrasonographic (US) elastography in the evaluation of suspicious breast masses.
Materials and Methods
This prospective study was conducted with institutional review board approval; written informed consent was obtained. Between January 2009 and February 2009, real-time US elastography of 312 breast masses (245 benign, 67 malignant) was performed in 268 consecutive patients (mean age, 45.7 years ± 10.2 [standard deviation]) prior to US-guided core biopsy. Five breast radiologists who had performed the examinations assessed the quality of elasticity images as inadequate, low, or high without histologic information. Age, body mass index (BMI), mammographic density, lesion size, lesion depth, and breast thickness at US were analyzed for their association with image quality by using the χ2 test, Student t test, and multivariate analysis. Sensitivities and specificities for the differentiation of benign from malignant masses on the basis of elastography were calculated and compared between groups of quality scores by using the logistic regression method.
The quality of elasticity images was assessed as inadequate in 21 (6.7%) cases, low in 134 (42.9%), and high in 157 (50.3%). According to univariate analysis, smaller lesion size (P = .001), shallower lesion depth (P = .005), less breast thickness where the lesion was located (P < .0001), and benign pathologic finding (P = .004) were significantly associated with higher image quality. There was no correlation of image quality with age (P = .213), BMI (P = .191), mammographic density (P = .091), or distance from the nipple (P = .100). Multivariable analysis showed that breast thickness at the location of target lesions was the most important factor influencing elasticity image quality (P = .001). There were significant differences in sensitivity between higher-quality and lower-quality images (87.0% vs 56.8%, respectively; P = .015) in the differentiation of benign from malignant masses.
Breast thickness at the location of the lesion was the most important factor influencing image quality at US elastography. Sensitivity for classification of benign and malignant masses improved with higher quality scores.