Diffusion-weighted Imaging of the Breast: Principles and Clinical Applications

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1148/rg.314105160

The principles of diffusion-weighted imaging, suggestions for optimizing diffusion-weighted breast imaging technique, and the clinical implementation of diffusion-weighted breast imaging are discussed.

Diffusion-weighted imaging provides a novel contrast mechanism in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and has a high sensitivity in the detection of changes in the local biologic environment. A significant advantage of diffusion-weighted MR imaging over conventional contrast material–enhanced MR imaging is its high sensitivity to change in the microscopic cellular environment without the need for intravenous contrast material injection. Approaches to the assessment of diffusion-weighted breast imaging findings include assessment of these data alone and interpretation of the data in conjunction with T2-weighted imaging findings. In addition, the analysis of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value can be undertaken either in isolation or in combination with diffusion-weighted and T2-weighted imaging. Most previous studies have evaluated ADC value alone; however, overlap in the ADC values of malignant and benign disease has been observed. This overlap may be partly due to selection of b value, which can influence the concomitant effect of perfusion and emphasize the contribution of multicomponent model influences. The simultaneous assessment of diffusion-weighted and T2-weighted imaging data and ADC value has the potential to improve specificity. In addition, the use of diffusion-weighted imaging in a standard breast MR imaging protocol may heighten sensitivity and thereby improve diagnostic accuracy. Standardization of diffusion-weighted imaging parameters is needed to allow comparison of multicenter studies and assessment of the clinical utility of diffusion-weighted imaging and ADC values in breast evaluation. Supplemental material available at http://radiographics.rsna.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1148/rg.314105160/-/DC1.

© RSNA, 2011


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Article History

Received: June 28 2010
Revision requested: Sept 28 2010
Revision received: Jan 6 2011
Accepted: Jan 10 2011
Published online: July 8 2011
Published in print: July 2011