Diffusion-Weighted Imaging in Head and Neck Cancer: Technique, Limitations, and Applications

Magn Reson Imaging Clin N Am. 2018 Feb;26(1):121-133. doi: 10.1016/j.mric.2017.08.011. Epub 2017 Oct 14.


Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) of the head and neck represents a distinct method of MR imaging with far-ranging applications. Research continues to hone the capabilities of DWI in characterization, prediction, monitoring, assessing response to treatment, and detecting posttreatment changes and recurrent tumors. Pretreatment apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values can suggest the likelihood of response to treatment. DWI-obtained ADC values are able to look beyond the anatomy in posttreatment tumor beds and metastatic lymph nodes to evaluate for tumor recurrence. Further research should include large-scale, multiinstitutional studies to provide standardized ADC cutoff values for more widespread use.

Keywords: Apparent diffusion coefficient; Diffusion-weighted imaging; Head and neck cancer; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC); Intravoxel incoherent motion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Head / diagnostic imaging
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Neck / diagnostic imaging