Analysis of cystic intracranial lesions performed with fluid-attenuated inversion recovery MR imaging

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 1999 Aug;20(7):1259-67.


Background and purpose: T1-, T2-, and proton density (PD)-weighted sequences are used to characterize the content of cystic intracranial lesions. Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MR sequences produce T2-weighted images with water signal saturation. Therefore, we attempted to verify whether FLAIR, as compared with conventional techniques, improves the distinction between intracranial cysts with a free water-like content versus those filled with a non-free water-like substance and, consequently, aids in the identification of these lesions as either neoplastic/inflammatory or maldevelopmental/porencephalic.

Methods: Forty-five cystic intracranial lesions were studied using T1-weighted, T2-weighted, FLAIR, and PD-weighted sequences. By means of clustering analysis of the ratio in signal intensity between the cystic intracranial lesions and CSF, the intracranial lesions were classified as filled with a free water-like content or with a non-free water-like substance. The results were compared with their true content as evaluated either histologically or on the basis of clinical, neuroradiologic, and follow-up features (necrotic material, 13 cases; accumulation of intercellular proteinaceous/myxoid material, eight cases; keratin, five cases; CSF, 19 cases). Cystic intracranial lesions were divided into two clinical groups, neoplastic/inflammatory and maldevelopmental/porencephalic, to evaluate the level of accuracy of each MR technique. The difference in absolute value signal intensity between CSF and cystic intracranial lesion content was calculated on FLAIR and PD-weighted images.

Results: PD-weighted and FLAIR sequences, unlike T1- and T2-weighted sequences, accurately depicted all cystic intracranial lesions containing necrotic or myxoid/proteinaceous intercellular material (non-free water-like) and most CSF-containing cystic intracranial lesions (free water-like). All imaging techniques inaccurately showed some of the keratin-containing cystic intracranial lesions and pineal cysts. The overall error rate was 22% for T1-weighted, 27% for T2-weighted, 9% for FLAIR, and 13% for PD-weighted sequences. The signal intensity difference between CSF and cystic intracranial lesion content was higher with FLAIR imaging.

Conclusions: FLAIR imaging depicts far more accurately the content of cystic intracranial lesions and better reveals the distinction between maldevelopmental/porencephalic and neoplastic/inflammatory lesions than do conventional sequences. FLAIR has the added advantage of a higher signal intensity difference between cystic intracranial lesions and CSF.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / classification
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / classification
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cysts / classification
  • Cysts / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged