New Ultrasound Technique Provides Clear Look at Hard- to-Diagnose Breast Cysts

September 1, 2001

A new ultrasound technique called breast harmonic imaging can be successfully used to diagnose hard-to-see breast cysts,

A new ultrasound technique called breast harmonic imaging can be successfully used to diagnose hard-to-see breast cysts, thus eliminating the need for some biopsies,according to a study presented at a recent American Roentgen Ray Society meetingheld in Seattle, Washington.

The study—which involved 30 patients with 117 breast cysts—found thatharmonic imaging provides higher resolution and better detail of small cysts orcysts that are deeper in the breast than can be detected by conventionalultrasound, said Derek Muradali, MD, of the University Health Network and MountSinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

Patients in the study underwent a conventional ultrasound examination and aharmonic imaging examination. Two radiologists reviewed the conventionalultrasound images and the harmonic images and found that the harmonic imageswere "superior to conventional ultrasound" in 80% of cases. Theradiologists did not know which images were conventional or harmonic when theymade their assessment.

Future Standard of Care?

"Harmonic imaging is now available on some ultrasound machines, and wesimply flip a switch on the machine to change to the harmonic image," saidDr. Muradali. Harmonic imaging has been used in the past, but it is onlyrecently that the linear transducers used in breast ultrasound have becomeavailable for use in harmonic imaging.

Harmonic imaging will likely become the standard of care for patients withcysts that are difficult to diagnose with conventional ultrasound, said Dr.Muradali. "In the past, we’ve been obliged to biopsy small cysts or thosedeep in the breast, because conventional ultrasound hasn’t provided the detailneeded to accurately diagnose them. Harmonic imaging provides us with the meansto avoid doing those biopsies." This saves the patient and the physiciantime, effort, and money, said Dr. Muradali.