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Automated whole-breast ultrasound

Automated whole-breast ultrasound (AWBU) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to obtain volumetric ultrasound data of the entire breast.

How it works

Similarly as the 3D ultrasound technique used for pregnant women, AWBU allows to obtain volumetric image data from ultrasound sonography.

With automated whole-breast ultrasound, the ultrasound transducer is guided over the breast in an automatic manner. The position and speed of the transducer is regulated automatically, whereas the angle of incidence and the amount of pressure applied is set by the human operator. The entire breast is scanned in an automated manner, and the procedure yields volumetric image data of the breast.[1] The resulting image data can be read at any convenient time by the radiologist, who is freed from performing the scan.[2]

This allows selected scan planes to be visualized, and also allows the data to be displayed as a volumetric image.


AWBU has been proposed, in particular, as additional cancer screening modality for women with dense breasts.[2][3]

Comparison to hand-held ultrasound

AWBU offers advantages in terms of speed and standardization of ultrasound imaging, rendering the result largely independent of the skill of the operator. Furthermore, the position of any anormality can be determined relative to the position of the nipple, allowing the same abnormality to be retrieved with precision in follow-up diagnostic procedures and also in biopsy interventions.[1]

However, a number of AWBU techniques employ ultrasound transducers of lower frequency than hand-held ultrasound, resulting in lower spatial and contrast resolution. A disadvantage of AWBU imaging is that it captures static tissue features and does not show the dynamic images properties that can often be seen in images obtained from hand-held ultrasound devices.[4]


There have been preliminary investigations into the use of AWBU for performing ultrasound-guided biopsy. Also, algorithms for (semi-)automatic evaluation of the acquired image data are under development.[5]


  1. ^ a b Mahesh K. Shetty (15 March 2013). Breast and Gynecological Cancers: An Integrated Approach for Screening and Early Diagnosis in Developing Countries. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 309–311. ISBN 978-1-4614-1876-4. 
  2. ^ a b Kelly KM, Richwald GA (2011). "Automated whole-breast ultrasound: advancing the performance of breast cancer screening". Seminars in Ultrasound, CT, and MR (review) 32 (4): 273–80. PMID 21782117. doi:10.1053/j.sult.2011.02.004. 
  3. ^ Marie Tartar; Christopher E. Comstock; Michael S. Kipper (2008). Breast Cancer Imaging: A Multidisciplinary, Multimodality Approach. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 4. ISBN 0-323-04677-0. 
  4. ^ A. Thomas Stavros (2004). Breast Ultrasound. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-397-51624-7. 
  5. ^ Sylvia Helen Heywang-Koebrunner; Ingrid Schreer (15 January 2014). Diagnostic Breast Imaging: Mammography, Sonography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Interventional Procedures. Thieme. p. 349. ISBN 978-3-13-150411-1.