The image quality limitations of echo-planar diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) are an obstacle to its widespread adoption in the breast. Steady-state DWI is an alternative DWI method with more robust image quality but its contrast for imaging breast cancer is not well-understood. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate diffusion-weighted double-echo steady-state imaging with a three-dimensional cones trajectory (DW-DESS-Cones) as an alternative to conventional DWI for non-contrast-enhanced MRI in the breast. This prospective study included 28 women undergoing clinically indicated breast MRI and six asymptomatic volunteers. In vivo studies were performed at 3 T and included DW-DESS-Cones, DW-DESS-Cartesian, DWI, and CE-MRI acquisitions. Phantom experiments (diffusion phantom, High Precision Devices) and simulations were performed to establish framework for contrast of DW-DESS-Cones in comparison to DWI in the breast. Motion artifacts of DW-DESS-Cones were measured with artifact-to-noise ratio in volunteers and patients. Lesion-to-fibroglandular tissue signal ratios were measured, lesions were categorized as hyperintense or hypointense, and an image quality observer study was performed in DW-DESS-Cones and DWI in patients. Effect of DW-DESS-Cones method on motion artifacts was tested by mixed-effects generalized linear model. Effect of DW-DESS-Cones on signal in phantom was tested by quadratic regression. Correlation was calculated between DW-DESS-Cones and DWI lesion-to-fibroglandular tissue signal ratios. Inter-observer agreement was assessed with Gwet's AC. Simulations predicted hyperintensity of lesions with DW-DESS-Cones but at a 3% to 67% lower degree than with DWI. Motion artifacts were reduced with DW-DESS-Cones versus DW-DESS-Cartesian (p < 0.05). Lesion-to-fibroglandular tissue signal ratios were not correlated between DW-DESS-Cones and DWI (r = 0.25, p = 0.38). Concordant hyperintensity/hypointensity was observed between DW-DESS-Cones and DWI in 11/14 lesions. DW-DESS-Cones improved sharpness, distortion, and overall image quality versus DWI. DW-DESS-Cones may be able to eliminate motion artifacts in the breast allowing for investigation of higher degrees of steady-state diffusion weighting. Malignant breast lesions in DW-DESS-Cones demonstrated hyperintensity with respect to surrounding tissue without an injection of contrast. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 2. TECHNICAL EFFICACY STAGE: 1.
Keywords: breast cancer; cones; diffusion-weighted; non-contrast-enhanced; steady-state; three-dimensional.
© 2020 International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.