Diagnostic value of apparent diffusion coefficients to differentiate benign from malignant vertebral bone marrow lesions

Eur J Radiol. 2009 Mar;69(3):560-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2007.11.037. Epub 2008 Feb 13.


Aim: The aim of this study is to evaluate the value of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) obtained in diffusion-weighted (DW) MR sequences for the differentiation between malignant and benign bone marrow lesions.

Method: Forty-five patients with altered signal intensity vertebral bodies on conventional MR sequences were included. The cause of altered signal intensity was benign osteoporotic collapse in 16, acute neoplastic infiltration in 15, and infectious processes in 14; based on plain-film, CT, bone scintigraphy, conventional MR studies, biopsy or follow-up. All patients underwent isotropic DW MR images (multi-shot EPI, b values of 0 and 500 s/mm(2)). Signal intensity at DW MR images was evaluated and ADC values were calculated and compared between malignancy, benign edema and infectious spondylitis.

Results: Acute malignant fractures were hyperintense compared to normal vertebral bodies on the diffusion-weighted sequence, except in one patient with sclerotic metastases. Mean ADC value from benign edema (1.9+/-0.39 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) was significantly (p<0.0001) higher than untreated metastasic lesions (0.9+/-1.3 x 10(-3)mm (2)/s). Mean ADC value of infectious spondilytis (0.96+/-0.49 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) was not statistically (p>0.05) different from untreated metastasic lesions. ADC value was low (0.75 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) in one case of subacute benign fracture.

Conclusions: ADC values are a useful complementary tool to characterize bone marrow lesions, in order to distinguish acute benign fractures from malignant or infectious bone lesions. However, ADC values are not valuable in order to differentiate malignancy from infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnosis*