Apparent diffusion coefficient measurements in the differentiation between benign and malignant lesions: a systematic review

Insights Imaging. 2012 Aug;3(4):395-409. doi: 10.1007/s13244-012-0175-y. Epub 2012 Jun 7.


Objectives: To systematically review the value of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) measurement in the differentiation between benign and malignant lesions.

Methods: A systematic search of the Medline/Pubmed and Embase databases revealed 109 relevant studies. Quality of these articles was assessed using the Quality Assessment of the Studies of Diagnostic Accuracy Included in Systematic Reviews (QUADAS) criteria. Reported ADC values of benign and malignant lesions were compared per organ.

Results: The mean quality score of the reviewed articles was 50%. Comparison of ADC values showed marked variation among studies and between benign and malignant lesions in various organs. In several organs, such as breast, liver, and uterus, ADC values discriminated well between benign and malignant lesions. In other organs, such as the salivary glands, thyroid, and pancreas, ADCs were not significantly different between benign and malignant lesions.

Conclusion: The potential utility of ADC measurement for the characterisation of tumours differs per organ. Future well-designed studies are required before ADC measurements can be recommended for the differentiation of benign and malignant lesions. These future studies should use standardised acquisition protocols and provide complete reporting of study methods, to facilitate comparison of results and clinical implementation of ADC measurement for tumour characterisation.