Elasticity mapping of murine abdominal organs in vivo using harmonic motion imaging (HMI)

Thomas Payen, Carmine F. Palermo, Stephen A. Sastra, Hong Chen, Yang Han, Kenneth P. Olive, Elisa E. Konofagou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Recently, ultrasonic imaging of soft tissue mechanics has been increasingly studied to image otherwise undetectable pathologies. However, many underlying mechanisms of tissue stiffening remain unknown, requiring small animal studies and adapted elasticity mapping techniques. Harmonic motion imaging (HMI) assesses tissue viscoelasticity by inducing localized oscillation from a periodic acoustic radiation force. The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of HMI for in vivo elasticity mapping of abdominal organs in small animals. Pathological cases, i.e. chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, were also studied in vivo to assess the capability of HMI for detection of the change in mechanical properties. A 4.5 MHz focused ultrasound transducer (FUS) generated an amplitude-modulated beam resulting in 50 Hz harmonic tissue oscillations at its focus. Axial tissue displacement was estimated using 1D-cross-correlation of RF signals acquired with a 7.8 MHz diagnostic transducer confocally aligned with the FUS. In vitro results in canine liver and kidney showed the correlation between HMI displacement and Young's moduli measured by rheometry compression testing. HMI was capable of providing reproducible elasticity maps of the mouse abdominal region in vivo allowing the identification of, from stiffest to softest, the murine kidney, pancreas, liver, and spleen. Finally, pancreata affected by pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer showed HMI displacements 1.7 and 2.2 times lower than in the control case, respectively, indicating higher stiffness. The HMI displacement amplitude was correlated with the extent of fibrosis as well as detecting the very onset of stiffening even before fibrosis could be detected on H&E. This work shows that HMI can produce reliable elasticity maps of mouse abdominal region in vivo, thus providing a potentially critical tool to assess pathologies affecting organ elasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5741-5754
Number of pages14
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 12 2016


  • abdominal organs
  • elastography
  • small animal studies
  • ultrasound


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