Diffusion-weighted MR imaging of the liver

Radiology. 2010 Jan;254(1):47-66. doi: 10.1148/radiol.09090021.


Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging plays an increasingly important role in the evaluation of patients with liver disease because of its high contrast resolution, lack of ionizing radiation, and the possibility of performing functional imaging sequences. With advances in hardware and coil systems, diffusion-weighted (DW) MR imaging can now be applied to liver imaging with improved image quality. DW MR imaging enables qualitative and quantitative assessment of tissue diffusivity (apparent diffusion coefficient) without the use of gadolinium chelates, which makes it a highly attractive technique, particularly in patients with severe renal dysfunction at risk for nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. In this review, acquisition parameters, postprocessing, and quantification methods applied to liver DW MR imaging will be discussed. The current clinical uses of DW MR imaging (liver lesion detection and characterization, compared and combined with conventional sequences) and the emerging applications of DW MR imaging (tumor treatment response and diagnosis of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis) will be reviewed. Also, limitations, mainly image quality and reproducibility of diffusion parameters, and future directions of liver DW MR imaging will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Media
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media