Cerebral abscesses: investigation using apparent diffusion coefficient maps

Neuroradiology. 2001 May;43(5):370-4. doi: 10.1007/s002340000519.


The combination of high signal and reduced apparent diffusion coefficients (ADC) within abscesses on diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) has been reported as characteristic of abscesses, and useful for distinguishing them from cystic or necrotic neoplasms. To assess whether these are consistent findings in abscesses, we used DWI-derived ADC to investigate changes in water diffusibility in cerebral abscesses. We reviewed the MRI studies and clinical records of five patients with brain abscesses, who underwent DWI. Regions of interest were drawn within the abscesses on ADC maps, to obtain the ADC. The center of all five abscesses gave signal higher than that of white matter on DWI. The three largest also appeared bright on ADC maps, i. e., showed ADC substantially lower than those of normal white matter, consistent with restricted diffusion. However, the two smaller abscesses were not visible on ADC maps because their ADC were essentially the same as that of white matter; they did not show restricted diffusion. The absence of restricted diffusion within small abscesses may be related to intrinsic differences in molecular microenvironment between small and large abscesses, or to greater influence of volume averaging with surrounding edema on the ADC in smaller abscesses.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Abscess / pathology*
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged