Vibroelastography is used for quantifying the stiffness in soft tissue. It is particularly useful in identifying hard lesions that are characteristics of many cancers.
Breast lesions are known to be harder than the fibroglandular tissue. Benign (i.e. non-cancerous) breast lesions often exhibit elasticities of 2 to 4 times higher than the surrounding tissue, while invasive breast cancer can be as much as 13 times stiffer than the background (Samani et al., 2007). Vibroelastography has been demonstrated to be effective in showing a real-time map of breast elasticity which correlates with the pathological condition of the lesions (Eskandari et al., 2013).
Prostate lesions are extremely difficult to find in an ultrasound image. Their acoustic properties are not significantly different than the normal prostate tissue, while physicians can often identify them though a simple digital rectal exam due to their relative hardness compared to the background. Vibroelastography has been shown to be successful in capturing the local changes in the elasticity within prostate.
Prostate vibrelastography can be done with a conventional transrectal transducer in the handled mode to produce 2D images of the elasticity in real-time. Alternatively, it can be done in 3D to generate a volumetric map of elasticity within the gland for offline review and to identify locations with probability of cancer.
Fibrosis is known to affect the stiffness of the liver. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), transient and shear-wave elastography were seen to yield elasticity numbers that correlates with the degree of fibrosis in liver. 3D vibroelastography can produce accurate maps of elasticity in the entire liver that have been validated by the gold standard MRE. In addition to producing a live elasticity image, VE can yield an single value representing the average elasticity in the organ.
Other applications of vibroelastography include thyroid imaging, musculoskeletal imaging (such as trigger points) and intra-operative imaging of soft tissues.