Purpose: To evaluate diffusion-weighted echo-planar magnetic resonance (MR) imaging for improving the specificity of characterization of liver tumors.
Materials and methods: Diffusion-weighted echo-planar imaging was performed with a 1.5-T whole-body imager with use of a body phased-array coil in 51 patients with 59 hepatic masses (41 malignant tumors, nine hemangiomas, and nine cysts). Apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values were obtained with two motion-probing gradients (b = 30 and 1,200 sec/mm2) during each of the breath-hold periods, and an ADC map was constructed. The T2 was derived from spin-echo echo-planar images with echo times of 47 and 99 msec.
Results: The ADC value of malignant masses (1.04 x 10(-3) mm2/sec) was significantly lower (P < .01) than that of benign masses (hemangiomas [1.95 x 10(-3) mm2/sec] and cysts [3.05 x 10(-3) mm2/sec]), although the T2s showed considerable overlap. A small amount of overlap in ADC values occurred among malignant tumors, hemangiomas, and cysts. ADC values of two cystic masses from ovarian carcinomas were within the range of those of hemangiomas.
Conclusion: These preliminary results indicate that diffusion-weighted MR imaging can be useful in characterizing focal liver masses. With the exception of cystic metastatic tumors, the technique may be especially useful in tumors that appear markedly hyperintense on T2-weighted images due to a long T2.