European Radiology

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1753–1765 | Cite as

Imaging strategies in the management of oesophageal cancer: what’s the role of MRI?

  • Peter S. N. van Rossum
  • Richard van Hillegersberg
  • Frederiek M. Lever
  • Irene M. Lips
  • Astrid L. H. M. W. van Lier
  • Gert J. Meijer
  • Maarten S. van Leeuwen
  • Marco van Vulpen
  • Jelle P. RuurdaEmail author
Magnetic Resonance



To outline the current role and future potential of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the management of oesophageal cancer regarding T-staging, N-staging, tumour delineation for radiotherapy (RT) and treatment response assessment.


PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane library were searched identifying all articles related to the use of MRI in oesophageal cancer. Data regarding the value of MRI in the areas of interest were extracted in order to calculate sensitivity, specificity, predictive values and accuracy for group-related outcome measures.


Although historically poor, recent improvements in MRI protocols and techniques have resulted in better imaging quality and the valuable addition of functional information. In recent studies, similar or even better results have been achieved using optimised MRI compared with other imaging strategies for T- and N-staging. No studies clearly report on the role of MRI in oesophageal tumour delineation and real-time guidance for RT so far. Recent pilot studies showed that functional MRI might be capable of predicting pathological response to treatment and patient prognosis.


In the near future MRI has the potential to bring improvement in staging, tumour delineation and real-time guidance for RT and assessment of treatment response, thereby complementing the limitations of currently used imaging strategies.

Key Points

• MRI’s role in oesophageal cancer has been somewhat limited to date.

• However MRI’s ability to depict oesophageal cancer is continuously improving.

• Optimising TN-staging, radiotherapy planning and response assessment ultimately improves individualised cancer care.

• MRI potentially complements the limitations of other imaging strategies regarding these points.


Magnetic resonance imaging Oesophagus Cancer Staging Radiotherapy Imaging 



three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy


apparent diffusion coefficient


American Joint Committee on Cancer


computed tomography




dynamic contrast-enhanced


diffusion-weighted imaging


diffusion-weighted whole-body imaging with background body signal suppression


endobronchial ultrasound


endomucosal resection


endoscopic ultrasound


18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography


fine needle aspiration


intensity modulated radiotherapy


magnetic resonance


magnetic resonance imaging




superparamagnetic iron oxide


short tau inversion recovery






turbo spin-echo


International Union Against Cancer


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter S. N. van Rossum
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard van Hillegersberg
    • 1
  • Frederiek M. Lever
    • 2
  • Irene M. Lips
    • 2
  • Astrid L. H. M. W. van Lier
    • 2
  • Gert J. Meijer
    • 2
  • Maarten S. van Leeuwen
    • 3
  • Marco van Vulpen
    • 2
  • Jelle P. Ruurda
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, G.04.228University Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of RadiotherapyUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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