Diagnostic value of diffusion-weighted imaging with synthetic b-values in breast tumors: comparison with dynamic contrast-enhanced and multiparametric MRI

Eur Radiol. 2021 Jan;31(1):356-367. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-07094-z. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


Objectives: To assess DWI for tumor visibility and breast cancer detection by the addition of different synthetic b-values.

Methods: Eighty-four consecutive women who underwent a breast-multiparametric-MRI (mpMRI) with enhancing lesions on DCE-MRI (BI-RADS 2-5) were included in this IRB-approved retrospective study from September 2018 to March 2019. Three readers evaluated DW acquired b-800 and synthetic b-1000, b-1200, b-1500, and b-1800 s/mm2 images for lesion visibility and preferred b-value based on lesion conspicuity. Image quality (1-3 scores) and breast composition (BI-RADS) were also recorded. Diagnostic parameters for DWI were determined using a 1-5 malignancy score based on qualitative imaging parameters (acquired + preferred synthetic b-values) and ADC values. BI-RADS classification was used for DCE-MRI and quantitative ADC values + BI-RADS were used for mpMRI.

Results: Sixty-four malignant (average = 23 mm) and 39 benign (average = 8 mm) lesions were found in 80 women. Although b-800 achieved the best image quality score, synthetic b-values 1200-1500 s/mm2 were preferred for lesion conspicuity, especially in dense breast. b-800 and synthetic b-1000/b-1200 s/mm2 values allowed the visualization of 84-90% of cancers visible with DCE-MRI performing better than b-1500/b-1800 s/mm2. DWI was more specific (86.3% vs 65.7%, p < 0.001) but less sensitive (62.8% vs 90%, p < 0.001) and accurate (71% vs 80.7%, p = 0.003) than DCE-MRI for breast cancer detection, where mpMRI was the most accurate modality accounting for less false positive cases.

Conclusion: The addition of synthetic b-values enhances tumor conspicuity and could potentially improve tumor visualization particularly in dense breast. However, its supportive role for DWI breast cancer detection is still not definite.

Key points: • The addition of synthetic b-values (1200-1500 s/mm2) to acquired DWI afforded a better lesion conspicuity without increasing acquisition time and was particularly useful in dense breasts. • Despite the use of synthetic b-values, DWI was less sensitive and accurate than DCE-MRI for breast cancer detection. • A multiparametric MRI modality still remains the best approach having the highest accuracy for breast cancer detection and thus reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies.

Keywords: Breast tumors; Diagnostic imaging; Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging; Echo-planar imaging; Image analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Density
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Contrast Media
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Multiparametric Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media