Objective: Rathke's cleft cysts are often difficult to differentiate from other sellar cystic lesions using conventional MR imaging. The purpose of this study was to investigate the usefulness of single-shot fast spin-echo (SSFSE) diffusion-weighted MR imaging (DWI) in the diagnosis of a Rathke's cleft cyst.
Patients and methods: We examined retrospectively 29 patients with a histologically verified sellar or suprasellar lesion containing a fluid component; 12 patients had a Rathke's cleft cyst, 6 patients a craniopharyngioma, 5 patients a haemorrhagic pituitary adenoma, and 6 patients a cystic pituitary adenoma). Several regions of interest (ROIs) for apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) measurements were identified in the fluid components of the lesions. For comparison, ADC values were normalized using a relative ADC (rADC), which was determined by dividing the ADC values of lesions by those of normal white matter and expressing the quotient as a ratio.
Results: SSFSE provides diffusion-weighted images without significant susceptibility artifacts. DWI-SSFSE revealed Rathke's cleft cysts as hypointense relative to the normal brain parenchyma in all cases. The mean value of ADC for Rathke's cleft cysts was 2.12 x 10(-3) mm(2)/sec. Both the ADC and relative ADC of the Rathke's cleft cysts were significantly increased compared to those of the cystic components of craniopharyngiomas and haemorrhagic components of pituitary adenomas in the subacute phase (P < 0.05). There was not a statistically significant difference between Rathke's cleft cysts and cystic components of pituitary adenomas (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: DWI-SSFSE with ADC values provides objective information in the differential diagnosis of Rathke's cleft cysts from other sellar cystic lesions. In addition, DWI-SSFSE with ADC values is useful for differentiating Rathke's cleft cysts from craniopharyngiomas and haemorrhagic pituitary adenomas.