Hepatic steatosis or fatty liver disease occurs when lipids accumulate within the liver and can lead to steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer and eventual liver failure requiring liver transplant. Conventional brightness mode (B-mode) ultrasound (US) is the most common noninvasive diagnostic imaging modality used to diagnose hepatic steatosis in clinics. However, it is mostly subjective or requires a reference organ such as the kidney or spleen with which to compare. This comparison can be problematic when the reference organ is diseased or absent. The current work presents an alternative approach to noninvasively detecting liver fat content using US-induced thermal strain imaging (US-TSI). This technique is based on the difference in the change in the speed of sound as a function of temperature between water- and lipid-based tissues. US-TSI was conducted using two system configurations including a mid-frequency scanner with a single linear array transducer (5-14 MHz) for both imaging and heating and a high-frequency (13-24 MHz) small animal imaging system combined with a separate custom-designed US heating transducer array. Fatty livers (n = 10) with high fat content (45.6 ± 11.7%) from an obese mouse model and control livers (n = 10) with low fat content (4.8 ± 2.9%) from wild-type mice were embedded in gelatin. Then, US imaging was performed before and after US induced heating. Heating time periods of ∼3 s and ∼9.2 s were used for the mid-frequency imaging and high-frequency imaging systems, respectively, to induce temperature changes of approximately 1.5 °C. The apparent echo shifts that were induced as a result of sound speed change were estimated using 2D phase-sensitive speckle tracking. Following US-TSI, histology was performed to stain lipids and measure percentage fat in the mouse livers. Thermal strain measurements in fatty livers (-0.065 ± 0.079%) were significantly (p < 0.05) higher than those measured in control livers (-0.124 ± 0.037%). Using histology as a gold standard to classify mouse livers, US-TSI had a sensitivity and specificity of 70% and 90%, respectively. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.775. This ex vivo study demonstrates the feasibility of using US-TSI to detect fatty livers and warrants further investigation of US-TSI as a diagnostic tool for hepatic steatosis.
- fatty liver disease
- obese mouse
- ultrasound thermal strain
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging