Ultra-High b-Value Diffusion-Weighted Imaging-Based Abbreviated Protocols for Breast Cancer Detection

Invest Radiol. 2021 Oct 1;56(10):629-636. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000784.


Objectives: Contrast-enhanced (CE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most effective imaging modality for breast cancer detection. A contrast agent-free examination technique would be desirable for breast MRI screening. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the capability to detect and characterize suspicious breast lesions with an abbreviated, non-contrast-enhanced MRI protocol featuring ultra-high b-value diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) compared with CE images.

Materials and methods: The institutional review board-approved prospective study included 127 female subjects with different clinical indications for breast MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging examinations included DWI sequences with b-values of 1500 s/mm2 (b1500) and 2500 s/mm2 (b2500), native T1- and T2-weighted images, and CE sequences at 1.5 T and 3 T scanners. Two reading rounds were performed, including either the b1500 or the b2500 DWI in consecutive assessment steps: (A) maximum intensity projections (MIPs) of DWI, (B) DWI and apparent diffusion coefficient maps, (C) as (B) but with additional native T1- and T2-weighted images, and (D) as (C) but with additional CE images (full-length protocol). Two readers independently determined the presence of a suspicious lesion. Histological confirmation was obtained for conspicuous lesions, whereas the full MRI data set was obtained for inconspicuous and clearly benign lesions. Statistical analysis included calculation of diagnostic accuracy and interrater agreement via the intraclass correlation coefficient.

Results: The cohort comprised 116 cases with BI-RADS 1 findings and 138 cases with BI-RADS ≥2 findings, including 38 histologically confirmed malignancies. For (A), breasts without pathological findings could be recognized with high diagnostic accuracy (negative predictive value, ≥97.0%; sensitivity, ≥92.1% for both readers), but with a limited specificity (≥58.3%; positive predictive value, ≥28.6%). Within the native readings, approach (C) with b2500 performed best (negative predictive value, 99.5%; sensitivity, 97.4%; specificity, 88.4%). The intraclass correlation coefficient was between 0.683 (MIP b1500) and 0.996 (full protocol).

Conclusions: A native abbreviated breast MRI protocol with advanced high b-value DWI might allow nearly equivalent diagnostic accuracy as CE breast MRI and seems to be well suited for lesion detection purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

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


  • Contrast Media