Background: Small-bowel MRI based on contrast-enhanced T1-weighted sequences has been challenged by diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) for detection of inflammatory bowel lesions and complications in patients with Crohn disease.
Objective: To evaluate free-breathing DWI, as compared to contrast-enhanced MRI, in children, adolescents and young adults with Crohn disease.
Materials and methods: This retrospective study included 33 children and young adults with Crohn disease ages 17 ± 3 years (mean ± standard deviation) and 27 matched controls who underwent small-bowel MRI with contrast-enhanced T1-weighted sequences and DWI at 1.5 T. The detectability of Crohn manifestations was determined. Concurrent colonoscopy as reference was available in two-thirds of the children with Crohn disease.
Results: DWI and contrast-enhanced MRI correctly identified 32 and 31 patients, respectively. All 22 small-bowel lesions and all Crohn complications were detected. False-positive findings (two on DWI, one on contrast-enhanced MRI), compared to colonoscopy, were a result of large-bowel lumen collapse. Inflammatory wall thickening was comparable on DWI and contrast-enhanced MRI. DWI was superior to contrast-enhanced MRI for detection of lesions in 27% of the assessed bowel segments and equal to contrast-enhanced MRI in 71% of segments.
Conclusion: DWI facilitates fast, accurate and comprehensive workup in Crohn disease without the need for intravenous administration of contrast medium. Contrast-enhanced MRI is superior in terms of spatial resolution and multiplanar acquisition.