The chaotic vascular network surrounding malignant tumors leads to pulsatile blood flow patterns that differ from those in benign regions of the breast. This study aimed to determine if high-speed electrical impedance tomography (EIT) is able to detect conductivity changes associated with cyclic blood-volume changes and to gauge the potential of using these signatures to differentiate malignant from benign regions within the breast. EIT imaging of pulsating latex membranes submerged in saline baths provided initial validation of its use for tracking temporally varying conductivities. Nineteen women (10 with cancer, nine without) were imaged with EIT over the course of several heartbeats in synchrony with pulse-oximetry acquisition. Eight parameters (rs, φ(rt,max), rt,max, Plow:full, Phigh:full, Plow:high) relating the conductivity images and pulse-oximeter signatures were extracted and used as a means of comparing malignant and benign regions of the breast. Significant differences (p<0.01) between malignant and benign regions of interest were noted in seven of the eight parameters. The maximum correlation between conductivity and pulse-oximeter signals, rt,max, was observed to be the optimal discriminating parameter with a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.8 and a specificity of 81% at a sensitivity of 77%. Assessing the dynamic conductivity of breast may provide additional clinical utility to that of standard imaging modalities, but further investigation is necessary to better understand the biophysical mechanisms leading to the observed conductivity changes.
- Breast cancer
- electrical impedance tomography (EIT)