A prospective study on the value of ultrasound microflow assessment to distinguish malignant from benign solid breast masses: Association between ultrasound parameters and histologic microvessel densities

Ah Young Park, Myoungae Kwon, Ok Hee Woo, Kyu Ran Cho, Eun Kyung Park, Sang Hoon Cha, Sung Eun Song, Ju-Han Lee, Jaehyung Cha, Gil Soo Son, Bo Kyoung Seo

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Objective: To investigate the value of ultrasound (US) microflow assessment in distinguishing malignant from benign solid breast masses as well as the association between US parameters and histologic microvessel density (MVD). Materials and Methods: Ninety-eight breast masses (57 benign and 41 malignant) were examined using Superb Microvascular Imaging (SMI) and contrast-enhanced US (CEUS) before biopsy. Two radiologists evaluated the quantitative and qualitative vascular parameters on SMI (vascular index, morphology, distribution, and penetration) and CEUS (time–intensity curve analysis and enhancement characteristics). US parameters were compared between benign and malignant masses and the diagnostic performance was compared between SMI and CEUS. Subgroup analysis was performed according to lesion size. The effect of vascular parameters on downgrading Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) category 4A masses was evaluated. The association between histologic MVD and US parameters was analyzed. Results: Malignant masses were associated with a higher vascular index (15.1 ± 7.3 vs. 5.9 ± 5.6), complex vessel morphology (82.9% vs. 42.1%), central vascularity (95.1% vs. 59.6%), penetrating vessels (80.5% vs. 31.6%) on SMI (all, p < 0.001), as well as higher peak intensity (37.1 ± 25.7 vs. 17.0 ± 15.8, p < 0.001), slope (10.6 ± 11.2 vs. 3.9 ± 4.2, p = 0.001), area (1035.7 ± 726.9 vs. 458.2 ± 410.2, p < 0.001), hyperenhancement (95.1% vs. 70.2%, p = 0.005), centripetal enhancement (70.7% vs. 45.6%, p = 0.023), penetrating vessels (65.9% vs. 22.8%, p < 0.001), and perfusion defects (31.7% vs. 3.5%, p < 0.001) on CEUS (p ≤ 0.023). The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUCs) of SMI and CEUS were 0.853 and 0.841, respectively (p = 0.803). In 19 masses measuring < 10 mm, central vascularity on SMI was associated with malignancy (100% vs. 38.5%, p = 0.018). Considering all benign SMI parameters on the BI-RADS assessment, unnecessary biopsies could be avoided in 12 category 4A masses with improved AUCs (0.500 vs. 0.605, p < 0.001). US vascular parameters associated with malignancy showed higher MVD (p ≤ 0.016). MVD was higher in malignant masses than in benign masses, and malignant masses negative for estrogen receptor or positive for Ki67 had higher MVD (p < 0.05). Conclusion: US microflow assessment using SMI and CEUS is valuable in distinguishing malignant from benign solid breast masses, and US vascular parameters are associated with histologic MVD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-772
Number of pages14
JournalKorean journal of radiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 1



  • Breast cancer
  • Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS)
  • Doppler
  • Microvessel density
  • Ultrasonography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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