Diffusion-weighted (DW) imaging is a functional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging technique that can readily be incorporated into a routine non–contrast material–enhanced MR imaging protocol with little additional scanning time. DW imaging is based on changes in the Brownian motion of water molecules caused by tissue microstructure. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) is a quantitative measure of Brownian movement: Low ADC values typically reflect highly cellular microenvironments in which diffusion is restricted by the presence of cell membranes, whereas acellular regions allow free diffusion and result in elevated ADC values. Thus, with ADC mapping, one may derive useful quantitative information regarding the cellularity of a musculoskeletal lesion using a nonenhanced technique. The role of localized DW imaging in differentiating malignant from benign osseous and soft-tissue lesions is still evolving; when carefully applied, however, this modality has proved helpful in a subset of tumor types, such as nonmyxoid soft-tissue tumors. Studies of the use of DW imaging in assessing the treatment response of both osseous and soft-tissue tumors have shown that higher ADC values correlate with better response to cytotoxic therapy. Successful application of DW imaging in the evaluation of musculoskeletal lesions requires familiarity with potential diagnostic pitfalls that stem from technical artifacts and confounding factors unrelated to lesion cellularity. Further investigation is needed to evaluate the impact of DW imaging–ADC mapping on management and outcome in patients with musculoskeletal lesions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging