Diffusion weighted imaging demystified: the technique and potential clinical applications for soft tissue imaging

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Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is a fast, non-contrast technique that is readily available and easy to integrate into an existing imaging protocol. DWI with apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) mapping offers a quantitative metric for soft tissue evaluation and provides information regarding the cellularity of a region of interest. There are several available methods of performing DWI, and artifacts and pitfalls must be considered when interpreting DWI studies. This review article will review the various techniques of DWI acquisition and utility of qualitative as well as quantitative methods of image interpretation, with emphasis on optimal methods for ADC measurement. The current clinical applications for DWI are primarily related to oncologic evaluation: For the assessment of de novo soft tissue masses, ADC mapping can serve as a useful adjunct technique to routine anatomic sequences for lesion characterization as cyst or solid and, if solid, benign or malignant. For treated soft tissue masses, the role of DWI/ADC mapping in the assessment of treatment response as well as recurrent or residual neoplasm in the setting of operative management is discussed, especially when intravenous contrast medium cannot be given. Emerging DWI applications for non-neoplastic clinical indications are also reviewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 20 2017



  • ADC mapping
  • Cyst
  • Diffusion-weighted MRI
  • Malignant neoplasm
  • Recurrence
  • Soft tissue mass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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