In Vivo Estimation of Attenuation and Backscatter Coefficients from Human Thyroids

Julien Rouyer, Tony Cueva, Tamy Yamamoto, Alberto Portal, Roberto J. Lavarello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. However, currently, a large number of FNA biopsies result in negative or undetermined diagnosis, which suggests that better noninvasive tools are needed for the clinical management of thyroid cancer. Spectral-based quantitative ultrasound (QUS) characterizations may offer a better diagnostic management as previously demonstrated in mouse cancer models ex vivo. As a first step toward understanding the potential of QUS markers for thyroid disease management, this paper deals with the spectral-based QUS estimation of healthy human thyroids in vivo. Twenty volunteers were inspected by a trained radiologist using two ultrasonic imaging systems, which allowed them to acquire radio-frequency data spanning the 3-16-MHz frequency range. Estimates of attenuation coefficient slope (ACS) using the spectral logarithmic difference method had an average value of 1.69 dB(cṁMHz) with a standard deviation of 0.28 dB(cṁMHz). Estimates of backscatter coefficient (BSC) using the reference-phantom method had an average value of 0.18sr-1cm-1 over the useful frequency range. The intersubject variability when estimating BSCs was less than 1.5 dB over the analysis frequency range. Further, the effectiveness of three scattering models (i.e., fluid sphere, Gaussian, and exponential form factors) when fitting the experimentally estimated BSCs was assessed. The exponential form factor was found to provide the best overall goodness of fit (R2=0.917), followed by the Gaussian (R2=0.807) and the fluid-sphere models (R2=0.752). For all scattering models used in this study, average estimates of the effective scatterer diameter were between 44 and 56μm. Overall, an excellent agreement in the estimated attenuation and BSCs with both scanners was exhibited.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7422149
Pages (from-to)1253-1261
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2016


  • Attenuation coefficient
  • Soft tissue characterization
  • backscatter coefficient
  • form factor
  • in vivo
  • quantitative estimation


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