Building an open-source simulation platform of acoustic radiation force-based breast elastography

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© 2017 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. Ultrasound-based elastography including strain elastography, acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) imaging, point shear wave elastography and supersonic shear imaging (SSI) have been used to differentiate breast tumors among other clinical applications. The objective of this study is to extend a previously published virtual simulation platform built for ultrasound quasi-static breast elastography toward acoustic radiation force-based breast elastography. Consequently, the extended virtual breast elastography simulation platform can be used to validate image pixels with known underlying soft tissue properties (i.e. 'ground truth') in complex, heterogeneous media, enhancing confidence in elastographic image interpretations. The proposed virtual breast elastography system inherited four key components from the previously published virtual simulation platform: an ultrasound simulator (Field II), a mesh generator (Tetgen), a finite element solver (FEBio) and a visualization and data processing package (VTK). Using a simple message passing mechanism, functionalities have now been extended to acoustic radiation force-based elastography simulations. Examples involving three different numerical breast models with increasing complexity - one uniform model, one simple inclusion model and one virtual complex breast model derived from magnetic resonance imaging data, were used to demonstrate capabilities of this extended virtual platform. Overall, simulation results were compared with the published results. In the uniform model, the estimated shear wave speed (SWS) values were within 4% compared to the predetermined SWS values. In the simple inclusion and the complex breast models, SWS values of all hard inclusions in soft backgrounds were slightly underestimated, similar to what has been reported. The elastic contrast values and visual observation show that ARFI images have higher spatial resolution, while SSI images can provide higher inclusion-to-background contrast. In summary, our initial results were consistent with our expectations and what have been reported in the literature. The proposed (open-source) simulation platform can serve as a single gateway to perform many elastographic simulations in a transparent manner, thereby promoting collaborative developments.

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Physics in Medicine and Biology