Papillary thyroid cancer often presents with cervical lymph node involvement and has a high incidence of recurrence, which requires routine follow-up with ultrasound imaging. Elastography is a novel ultrasound technique that has been demonstrated to be effective clinically in detecting tissue pathology in areas such as the liver and breast. Preliminary data suggest that it may be effective in screening tissues in the neck for malignancy, specifically cervical lymph nodes. However, diagnostic criteria and elastographic techniques vary significantly among the studies we have reviewed, which all tend to focus on populations of patients with many different types of primary malignancies. Further research is required on the feasibility of creating standardized and reproducible clinical criteria in a specific patient population. To study the clinical utility of elastography in cervical lymph nodes, patients with diagnosed papillary thyroid carcinoma may serve as an ideal population because of their need for ultrasound surveillance and the propensity of papillary thyroid cancer to metastasize to and recur in cervical lymph nodes. We will review the limitations, techniques, and reported clinical utility of elastography on cervical lymph nodes and its potential as a screening modality for papillary thyroid cancer.
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