Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) provides image contrast through measurement of the diffusion properties of water within tissues. Application of diffusion sensitising gradients to the MR pulse sequence allows water molecular displacement over distances of 1-20 microm to be recognised. Diffusion can be predominantly unidirectional (anisotropic) or not (isotropic). Combining images obtained with different amounts of diffusion weighting provides an apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) map. In cancer imaging DW-MRI has been used to distinguish brain tumours from peritumoural oedema. It is also increasingly exploited to differentiate benign and malignant lesions in liver, breast and prostate where increased cellularity of malignant lesions restricts water motion in a reduced extracellular space. It is proving valuable in monitoring treatment where changes due to cell swelling and apoptosis are measurable as changes in ADC at an earlier stage than subsequent conventional radiological response indicators.
(c) International Cancer Imaging Society.