Renal transplant elasticity ultrasound imaging: Correlation between normalized strain and renal cortical fibrosis
Elasticity Imaging Techniques
After transplantation, over a widely variable time course, the cortex of the transplanted kidney becomes stiffer as interstitial fibrosis develops and renal function declines. Elasticity ultrasound imaging (EUI) has been used to assess biomechanical properties of tissue that change in hardness as a result of pathologic damage. We prospectively assessed the hardness of the renal cortex in renal transplant allograft patients using a normalized ultrasound strain procedure measuring quasi-static deformation, which was correlated with the grade of renal cortical fibrosis. To determine cortical strain, we used 2-D speckle-tracking software (EchoInsight, Epsilon Imaging, Ann Arbor, MI, USA) to perform offline analysis of stored ultrasound loops capturing deformation of renal cortex and its adjacent soft tissue produced by pressure applied using the scanning transducer. Normalized strain is defined as the mean developed strain in the renal cortex divided by the overall mean strain measured in the soft tissues from the abdominal wall to pelvic muscles. Using the Banff scoring criteria for renal cortical fibrosis as the gold standard, we classified 20 renal transplant allograft biopsy tissue samples into two groups: group 1 (n = 10) with mild (<25%) renal cortical fibrosis and group 2 (n = 10) with moderate (26%-50%) renal cortical fibrosis. An unpaired two-tailed t-test was used to determine the statistical difference in strains between patients with mild and those with moderate renal cortical fibrosis. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was performed to assess the accuracy of developed strain and normalized strain in predicting moderate renal cortical fibrosis. The reference strain did not significantly differ between the two groups (p = 0.10). However, the developed renal cortical strain in group 1 with mild fibrosis was higher than that in group 2 with moderate fibrosis (p = 0.025). The normalized strain in group 1 was also higher than that in group 2 (p = 0.0014). The areas under receiver operating characteristic curves for developed strain and normalized strain were 0.78 and 0.95, respectively. The optimal cutoff for distinguishing moderate renal cortical fibrosis was -0.08 for developed strain (sensitivity = 0.50, specificity = 1.0) and 2.5 for normalized strain (sensitivity = 0.80, specificity = 1.0). In summary, renal cortex strain is strongly correlated with grade of renal cortical fibrosis. Normalized strain is superior to developed strain in distinguishing moderate from mild renal cortical fibrosis. We conclude that free-hand real-time strain EUI may be useful in assessing the progression of cortical fibrosis in renal transplant allografts. Further prospective study using this method is warranted.