Acoustic radiation force (ARF) creep imaging applies step ARF excitation to induce creep displacement of soft tissue, and the corresponding time-dependent responses are used to estimate soft tissue viscoelasticity or its contrast. Single degree of freedom (SDF) and homogeneous analytical models have been used to characterize soft tissue viscoelasticity in ARF creep imaging. The purpose of this study is to investigate the fundamental limitations of the commonly used SDF and homogeneous assumptions in ARF creep imaging. In this paper, finite element (FE) models are developed to simulate the dynamic behavior of viscoelastic soft tissue subjected to step ARF. Both homogeneous and heterogeneous models are studied with different soft tissue viscoelasticity and ARF configurations. The results indicate that the SDF model can provide good estimations for homogeneous soft tissue with high viscosity, but exhibits poor performance for low viscosity soft tissue. In addition, a smaller focal region of the ARF is desirable to reduce the estimation error with the SDF models. For heterogeneous media, the responses of the focal region are highly affected by the local heterogeneity, which results in deterioration of the effectiveness of the SDF and homogeneous simplifications.

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