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Radiographics. 2017 May-Jun;37(3):855-870. doi: 10.1148/rg.2017160116.

Shear-Wave Elastography: Basic Physics and Musculoskeletal Applications.

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From the Departments of Medical Imaging (M.S.T., L.H.G., D.M.M., R.S.W.) and Orthopaedic Surgery (G.W.B., L.D.L.), University of Arizona College of Medicine, 1501 N Campbell Ave, PO Box 245067, Tucson, AZ 85724; Department of Radiology, Section of Rheumatology and Sports Imaging, Medical University Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria (A.S.K.); and College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz (L.G.).


In the past 2 decades, sonoelastography has been progressively used as a tool to help evaluate soft-tissue elasticity and add to information obtained with conventional gray-scale and Doppler ultrasonographic techniques. Recently introduced on clinical scanners, shear-wave elastography (SWE) is considered to be more objective, quantitative, and reproducible than compression sonoelastography with increasing applications to the musculoskeletal system. SWE uses an acoustic radiation force pulse sequence to generate shear waves, which propagate perpendicular to the ultrasound beam, causing transient displacements. The distribution of shear-wave velocities at each pixel is directly related to the shear modulus, an absolute measure of the tissue's elastic properties. Shear-wave images are automatically coregistered with standard B-mode images to provide quantitative color elastograms with anatomic specificity. Shear waves propagate faster through stiffer contracted tissue, as well as along the long axis of tendon and muscle. SWE has a promising role in determining the severity of disease and treatment follow-up of various musculoskeletal tissues including tendons, muscles, nerves, and ligaments. This article describes the basic ultrasound physics of SWE and its applications in the evaluation of various traumatic and pathologic conditions of the musculoskeletal system. ©RSNA, 2017.

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