In-vitro Strain and Modulus Measurements in Porcine Cervical Lymph Nodes


Cervical lymph nodes are common sites of metastatic involvement in head and neck cancers. These lymph nodes are superficially located and palpation is a common practice for assessing nodal hardness and staging cancer which is, however, too subjective and with limited accuracy. In this study, the mechanical properties of pig lymph node tissues were investigated using ultrasound elastography and indentation test. Lymph nodes were excised from fresh pork pieces and embedded in an agar-gelatin phantom for strain imaging by elastography. A strain ratio reflecting the strain contrast of lymph node over agar-gelatin phantom was used to assess the elasticity of the lymph node. A cutting device was then custom-designed to slice the phantom into uniform slices for indentation test. The measurements revealed that there were significant differences in both the strain ratio and Young’s modulus between the peripheral and middle regions of the lymph nodes (both p < 0.05); however, the results appeared contradictory. Correlation between the results of the two measurements (modulus ratio vs. inversed strain ratio) showed their association was moderate for both the peripheral and middle regions (R2 = 0.437 and 0.424 respectively). As the tests were only performed on normal lymph nodes, comparison in stiffness between healthy and abnormal lymph nodes could not be made. Future studies should be conducted to quantify the stiffness change in abnormal lymph nodes.

Keywords: Ultrasound, elastography, indentation, lymph node, soft tissue, strain image, young’s modulus..