Differentiation between high-grade glioma and metastatic brain tumor using single-voxel proton MR spectroscopy

Eur Radiol. 2001;11(9):1784-91. doi: 10.1007/s003300000814.


The purpose of this study was to clarify the efficacy of single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in differentiating high-grade glioma from metastasis. Thirty-one high-grade gliomas (11 anaplastic gliomas and 20 glioblastomas) and 25 metastases were studied. Proton MRS was performed using point-resolved spectroscopy with echo times (TEs) of both 136 and 30 ms. The peaks for lipid were evaluated at short TE, and those for N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), creatine (Cr), and choline-containing compounds (Cho) were assessed at long TE. All the tumors exhibited a strong Cho peak at long TE. Twenty-one of 25 metastases showed no definite Cr peak. The remaining 4 metastases showed NAA and Cr peaks; however, the presence of NAA and relatively high NAA/Cr ratio (1.58+/-0.56) indicated normal brain contamination. All the gliomas, except for a single glioblastoma, showed a Cr peak with (n=16) or without (n=14) NAA. At short TE all metastases and glioblastomas showed definite lipid or lipid/lactate mixture, but anaplastic gliomas showed no definite lipid signal. Intratumoral Cr suggests glioma. Absence of Cr indicates metastasis. Definite lipid signal indicates cellular necrosis in glioblastoma and metastasis, and no lipid signal may exclude metastases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Astrocytoma / diagnosis*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Child
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Aspartic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Creatine
  • Choline