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J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2010 Jul;34(4):506-12. doi: 10.1097/RCT.0b013e3181da3671.

Contribution of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging in the characterization of hepatocellular carcinomas and dysplastic nodules in cirrhotic liver.

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Department of Radiology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.



To evaluate the diagnostic value of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) for the characterization of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and dysplastic nodule (DN) in cirrhotic liver, compared with contrast material-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (CE-MRI).


A total of 54 patients with 40 HCC and 19 DN lesions were included in our study, and all lesions were histopathologically confirmed. All lesions were evaluated with CE-MRI, and breath-hold DWI was performed with b = 500 s/mm. The signal intensity (SI) of the lesions were classified as low, iso-, slightly high, and strongly high SI compared with that of the surrounding liver parenchyma on DWI for qualitative assessment. Apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) and lesion-to-liver ADC ratio of HCCs and DNs were measured and compared by using the Mann-Whitney U test. The lesions were characterized with the use of CE-MRI criteria and DWI, respectively. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was performed to assess the diagnostic value of DWI, CE-MRI, and these techniques combined in the differentiation of HCCs from DNs.


In the qualitative analysis, among 40 HCCs, 39 (97.5%) had slightly high or strongly high SI on DWI, and 1 (2.5%) had low SI; only 4 (21.5%) of 19 DNs had slightly high SI, and 15 (78.95%) had iso-SI or low SI. The mean (SD) ADC and ADC ratio for HCCs (1.28 x 10 [0.25] mm/s and 0.88 [0.15], respectively) were significantly lower (P < 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively) than those for DNs (1.53 x 10 [0.33] mm/s and 1.00 [0.08], respectively). The area, Az, under the receiver operating characteristic curve for the SI feature, the ADC ratio, and the ADCs based on the diagnosis of HCC versus DN were 0.88, 0.81, and 0.68, respectively. When the slightly high SI of lesion with a cutoff ADC ratio less than 0.92 was applied as a criterion, the Az, the sensitivity, the specificity, and the accuracy of DWI for the diagnosis of HCC versus DN were 0.81, 67.50%, 94.74%, and 76.27%, respectively. The corresponding Az, sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of CE-MRI were 0.70, 82.50%, 57.89%, and 74.58%, respectively. Combined DWI plus CE-MRI had 0.91 Az, 97.50% sensitivity, and 93.22% accuracy, which increased significantly compared with those of CE-MRI alone.


Diffusion-weighted MRI can provide additional information to differentiate HCC from DN. Combined with CE-MRI, DWI allows improved characterization of HCC versus DN in cirrhotic liver.

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