Characterizing Fatty Liver in vivo in Rabbits, Using Quantitative Ultrasound

Trong N. Nguyen, Anthony S. Podkowa, Alex Y. Tam, Eben C. Arnold, Rita J. Miller, Trevor H. Park, Minh N. Do, Michael L. Oelze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease and can often lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, cancer and complete liver failure. Liver biopsy is the current standard of care to quantify hepatic steatosis, but it comes with increased patient risk and only samples a small portion of the liver. Imaging approaches to assess NAFLD include proton density fat fraction estimated via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and shear wave elastography. However, MRI is expensive and shear wave elastography is not proven to be sensitive to fat content of the liver (Kramer et al. 2016). On the other hand, ultrasonic attenuation and the backscatter coefficient (BSC) have been observed to be sensitive to levels of fat in the liver (Lin et al. 2015; Paige et al. 2017). In this study, we assessed the use of attenuation and the BSC to quantify hepatic steatosis in vivo in a rabbit model of fatty liver. Rabbits were maintained on a high-fat diet for 0, 1, 2, 3 or 6 wk, with 3 rabbits per diet group (total N = 15). An array transducer (L9-4) with a center frequency of 4.5 MHz connected to a SonixOne scanner was used to gather radio frequency (RF) backscattered data in vivo from rabbits. The RF signals were used to estimate an average attenuation and BSC for each rabbit. Two approaches were used to parameterize the BSC (i.e., the effective scatterer diameter and effective acoustic concentration using a spherical Gaussian model and a model-free approach using a principal component analysis [PCA]). The 2 major components of the PCA from the BSCs, which captured 96% of the variance of the transformed data, were used to generate input features to a support vector machine for classification. Rabbits were separated into two liver fat-level classes, such that approximately half of the rabbits were in the low-lipid class (≤9% lipid liver level) and half of the rabbits in the high-lipid class (>9% lipid liver level). The slope and the midband fit of the attenuation coefficient provided statistically significant differences (p value = 0.00014 and p value = 0.007, using a two-sample t test) between low and high-lipid fat classes. The proposed model-free and model-based parameterization of the BSC and attenuation coefficient parameters yielded classification accuracies of 84.11 %, 82.93 % and 78.91 % for differentiating low-lipid versus high-lipid classes, respectively. The results suggest that attenuation and BSC analysis can differentiate low-fat versus high-fat livers in a rabbit model of fatty liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2049-2062
Number of pages14
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Fatty liver
  • PCA
  • QUS
  • SVM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterizing Fatty Liver in vivo in Rabbits, Using Quantitative Ultrasound'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this