Cartesian Neural Network Constitutive Models for Data-driven Elasticity Imaging
Elasticity images map biomechanical properties of soft tissues to aid in the detection and diagnosis of pathological states. In particular, quasi-static ultrasonic (US) elastography techniques use force-displacement measurements acquired during an US scan to parameterize the spatio-temporal stress-strain behavior. Current methods use a model-based inverse approach to estimate the parameters associated with a chosen constitutive model. However, model-based methods rely on simplifying assumptions
... of tissue biomechanical properties, often limiting elastography to imaging one or two linear-elastic parameters. We previously described a data-driven method for building neural network constitutive models (NNCMs) that learn stress-strain relationships from force-displacement data. Using measurements acquired on gelatin phantoms, we demonstrated the ability of NNCMs to characterize linear-elastic mechanical properties without an initial model assumption and thus circumvent the mathematical constraints typically encountered in classic model-based approaches to the inverse problem. While successful, we were required to use a priori knowledge of the internal object shape to define the spatial distribution of regions exhibiting different material properties. Here, we introduce Cartesian neural network constitutive models (CaNNCMs) that are capable of using data to model both linear-elastic mechanical properties and their distribution in space. We demonstrate the ability of CaNNCMs to capture arbitrary material property distributions using stress-strain data from simulated phantoms. Furthermore, we show that a trained CaNNCM can be used to reconstruct a Young's modulus image. CaNNCMs are an important step toward data-driven modeling and imaging the complex mechanical properties of soft tissues.