Purpose To investigate the effects of macrocalcifications and clustered microcalcifications associated with benign breast masses on shear wave elastography (SWE). Methods SuperSonic Imagine (SSI) and comb-push ultrasound shear elastography (CUSE) were performed on three sets of phantoms to investigate how calcifications of different sizes and distributions influence measured elasticity. To demonstrate the effect in vivo, three female patients with benign breast masses associated with mammographically-identified calcifications were evaluated by CUSE. Results Apparent maximum elasticity (E max ) estimates resulting from individual macrocalcifications (with diameters of 2mm, 3mm, 5mm, 6mm, 9mm, 11mm, and 15mm) showed values over 50 kPa for all cases, which represents more than 100% increase over background (21kPa). We considered a 2cm-diameter circular region of interest for all phantom experiments. Mean elasticity (E mean ) values varied from 26 kPa to 73 kPa, depending on the macrocalcification size. Highly dense clusters of microcalcifications showed higher E max values than clusters of microcalcification with low concentrations, but the difference in E mean values was not significant. Conclusions Our results demonstrate that the presence of large isolated macrocalcifications and highly concentrated clusters of microcalcifications can introduce areas with apparent high elasticity in SWE. Considering that benign breast masses normally have significantly lower elasticity values than malignant tumors, such areas with high elasticity appearing due to presence of calcification in benign breast masses may lead to misdiagnosis.
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