Magnetic resonance imaging of pilocytic astrocytomas: usefulness of the minimum apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value for differentiation from high-grade gliomas

Acta Radiol. 2008 May;49(4):462-7. doi: 10.1080/02841850801918555.


Background: On contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) images, pilocytic astrocytomas (PAs) are usually well-enhanced tumors that may mimic high-grade gliomas (HGGs). On the other hand, it has been suggested that areas exhibiting minimum apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values reflect the sites of highest cellularity within heterogeneous tumors.

Purpose: To test the hypothesis that the cellularity of PAs is significantly different to the cellularity of HGGs, which should result in significant differences in minimum ADC values.

Material and methods: Between 1999 and 2005, 15 patients (nine males, six females) with histopathologically confirmed PAs underwent pretreatment MR examination including diffusion-weighted (DW) imaging. We reviewed their MR findings with respect to the size, location, morphology, contrast enhancement, and minimum ADC value of the tumors. The minimum ADC values of the 15 PAs were compared with those of 104 HGGs diagnosed during the same period.

Results: The diameter of the 15 PAs ranged from 11 to 60 mm (mean 36 mm); all were located around the ventricles, and all contained enhancing components. All except two small (11 and 14 mm) PAs contained cystic components. The minimum ADC values were significantly higher in PAs (median 1.688, range 1.375-1.897 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) than HGGs (0.997, 0.543-2.024 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) (P < 0.0001), although there was substantial overlap. Among the tumors with enhancing components, all but one PA were differentiated from the 76 HGGs with enhancing components (0.922, 0.543-1.462 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s) when the minimum ADC cutoff value was set at 1.5 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s.

Conclusion: The minimum ADC value may be helpful for the differentiation between PAs and HGGs. A tumor with enhancing components should be PA instead of HGG when the minimum ADC value is higher than 1.5 x 10(-3) mm(2)/s.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Astrocytoma / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Gadolinium DTPA / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium DTPA