Ultrasound Shear Wave Elastography of the Intervertebral Disc and Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Systematic Review

Steven de Reuver, Aaron J B W D Moens, Moyo C Kruyt, Rutger A J Nievelstein, Keita Ito, René M Castelein

Published: May 2022


Ultrasound shear wave elastography is a radiation-free and low-cost technique for evaluating the mechanical properties of different tissues. This study systematically reviewed all relevant literature on shear wave elastography of the intervertebral disc. The purpose was twofold: first, to determine the validity of the elastography method, that is, the correlation between elastographically measured shear wave speed and disc mechanical properties, and inter-/intra-operator reliability; and second, to explore if disc elastography is potentially useful in identifying children at risk for idiopathic scoliosis. This systematic review was performed according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) guidelines. A comprehensive search was performed in PubMed and Embase, and study quality was assessed using the AXIS (Appraisal Tool for Cross-sectional Studies) critical appraisal instrument. Seven articles were included. Three animal ex vivo studies reported moderate-to-good correlations between shear wave speed and disc mechanical properties (r = 0.45-0.81). Three studies reported high intra-operator repeatability (intra-class correlation coefficient [ICC] 0.94-0.99) and inter-operator reproducibility (ICC 0.97-0.98). Four clinical studies measured shear wave speed in asymptomatic children. Two studies reported significantly higher shear wave speeds in scoliosis patients compared with healthy controls, measured in discs both inside and outside the scoliotic curve. In conclusion, shear wave elastography appears reliable in assessing intervertebral disc mechanical characteristics. Despite its promising capabilities to distinguish patients with asymptomatic from those with pathological discs, the exact correlation between disc mechanical properties and shear wave speed remains unclear.

Full Access Link: Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology