Diffusion-weighted imaging of the musculoskeletal system in humans
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This article reviews the principles of diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and recent results in DWI of the musculoskeletal system. The potential of DWI in the diagnosis of pathology of the musculoskeletal system is discussed. DWI is a relatively new MR imaging technique that has already been established in neuroradiology, especially in the early detection of brain ischemia. The random motion of water protons on a molecular basis can be measured with DWI. To date DWI of the abdomen and of the musculoskeletal system has only been employed in scientific studies, but first results indicate that it may also be beneficial in these fields. Different diffusion characteristics have been found in normal tissues such as muscle, fat and bone marrow. Also, pathologic entities such as neoplasms, post-therapeutic soft tissue changes and inflammatory processes can be differentiated. Normal muscle shows significantly higher diffusion values than subcutaneous fat and bone marrow, due to a higher mobility of water protons within muscle. Soft tissue tumors exhibit a significantly lower diffusion value compared with post-therapeutic soft tissue changes and inflammatory processes. Necrotic tumor tissue can be distinguished from viable tumor due to significantly higher diffusion of water protons within necrotic tissue.
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