Diffusion-weighted imaging of the breast: principles and clinical applications

Radiographics. Jul-Aug 2011;31(4):1059-84. doi: 10.1148/rg.314105160.


Diffusion-weighted imaging provides a novel contrast mechanism in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and has a high sensitivity in the detection of changes in the local biologic environment. A significant advantage of diffusion-weighted MR imaging over conventional contrast material-enhanced MR imaging is its high sensitivity to change in the microscopic cellular environment without the need for intravenous contrast material injection. Approaches to the assessment of diffusion-weighted breast imaging findings include assessment of these data alone and interpretation of the data in conjunction with T2-weighted imaging findings. In addition, the analysis of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value can be undertaken either in isolation or in combination with diffusion-weighted and T2-weighted imaging. Most previous studies have evaluated ADC value alone; however, overlap in the ADC values of malignant and benign disease has been observed. This overlap may be partly due to selection of b value, which can influence the concomitant effect of perfusion and emphasize the contribution of multicomponent model influences. The simultaneous assessment of diffusion-weighted and T2-weighted imaging data and ADC value has the potential to improve specificity. In addition, the use of diffusion-weighted imaging in a standard breast MR imaging protocol may heighten sensitivity and thereby improve diagnostic accuracy. Standardization of diffusion-weighted imaging parameters is needed to allow comparison of multicenter studies and assessment of the clinical utility of diffusion-weighted imaging and ADC values in breast evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Breast / pathology*
  • Breast Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*