Recent developments in diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) make it possible to image malignant tumors to provide tissue contrast based on difference with the diffusion of water molecules among tissues, which can be measured by the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value. We aimed to assess the diagnostic accuracy of DWI for benign/malignant discrimination of pulmonary nodules/masses with a meta-analysis. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cancerlit and Cochrane Library database, from January 2001 to August 2011, were searched for studies evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of DWI for benign/malignant discrimination of pulmonary nodules. We determined sensitivities and specificities across studies, calculated positive and negative likelihood ratios (LRP and LRN), and constructed summary receiver operating characteristic SROC) curves. Across 10 studies (545 patients), there was no evidence of publication bias (P=.22, bias=-19.19). DWI had a pooled sensitivity of 0.84 (95% CI, 0.76-0.90) and a pooled specificity of 0.84 (95% CI, 0.64-0.94). Overall, LRP was 5.3 (95% CI, 2.1-13.0) and LRN was 0.19 (95% CI, 0.12-0.30). In patients with high pretest probabilities, DWI enabled confirmation of malignant pulmonary lesion; in patients with low pretest probabilities, DWI enabled exclusion of malignant pulmonary lesion. Worst-case-scenario (pretest probability, 50%) posttest probabilities were 84% and 16% for positive and negative DWI results, respectively. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging can be used to differentiate malignant from benign pulmonary lesions. High-quality prospective studies regarding DWI in the evaluation of pulmonary nodules are still needed to be conducted.
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