Diffusion MR imaging: clinical applications

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1992 Sep;159(3):591-9. doi: 10.2214/ajr.159.3.1503032.


Water self-diffusion, a recently discovered source of contrast on MR images, has already shown promise for some clinical applications. Most studies have been of the brain, essentially for technical reasons. Diffusion is useful in distinguishing the different components of brain tumors (cystic regions, edema, necrosis) from the tumor core itself. Recent studies have shown that diffusion is anisotropic in brain white matter (i.e., dependent on the fiber tract's orientation in space), offering new insights into myelin disorders. Diffusion is also dramatically altered in the minutes following ischemic injury in the cat brain, which may have tremendous impact for the diagnosis and management of hyperacute stroke. With ultrafast acquisition schemes, diffusion imaging has also been used outside the CNS, for instance, in the eye and kidney. Future applications include diffusion-localized spectroscopy and temperature imaging. This article reviews recent progress in this field and suggests potential applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Reference Values