Benign and malignant enlarged chest nodes staging by diffusion-weighted MRI: an alternative to mediastinoscopy?

Br J Radiol. 2018 Feb;91(1082):20160919. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20160919. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of diffusion-weighted MRI with background suppression (DWIBS) in differentiating between malignant and benign mediastinal lymph-nodes.

Methods: Consecutive patients with enlarged mediastinal lymph-nodes underwent MRI DWIBS within 10 days prior to mediastinoscopy. Relative contrast ratios (RCRs) were computed on b800 and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps by dividing the node signal with the chest muscle signal, using manually drawn regions of interest (ROIs) by radiologists, blinded to pathology. Unpaired Student's t-tests were used to compare RCR-b800 and ADC between malignant and benign nodes. Receiver operating characteristic curves analyses were also performed.

Results: Six patients were excluded for poor image quality. Analysis was performed for 54 patients. Mean ADC values were significantly higher for benign (1740 ± 401 × 10-6 mm2 s-1) compared with malignant nodes (1266 ± 403 × 10-6 mm2 s-1, p = 0.0001). Mean RCR-b800 values were significantly lower for benign (2.64 ± 1.07) compared with malignant nodes (6.44 ± 3.47, p < 0.0001). Receiver operating characteristic analysis for RCR-b800 (cut-off of 3.6), showed a sensitivity of 90.9%, a specificity 83% and an accuracy 85% for differentiating benign from malignant nodes. For ADC (cut-off of 1285), the sensitivity was 68.2%, the specificity 84.6% and the accuracy 80.4%.

Conclusion: DWIBS can accurately differentiate malignant from benign states in enlarged mediastinal lymph-nodes and represents an alternative method in aetiological work-up of mediastinal lymphadenopathies. Advances in knowledge: DWIBS may represent a useful adjunctive imaging modality, particularly for diagnosis of benign mediastinal lymph node, and thus may reduce the frequency of futile mediastinoscopy, which remains an invasive procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mediastinoscopy
  • Mediastinum
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity