Diffusion tensor imaging and tractography for preoperative assessment of benign peripheral nerve sheath tumors

Alexandra S. Gersing, Barbara Cervantes, Carolin Knebel, Benedikt J. Schwaiger, Jan S. Kirschke, Dominik Weidlich, Carolin Claudi, Johannes M. Peeters, Daniela Pfeiffer, Ernst J. Rummeny, Dimitrios C. Karampinos, Klaus Woertler

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8 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the diagnostic value of fiber tractography and diffusivity analysis generated from 3D diffusion-weighted (DW) sequences for preoperative assessment of benign peripheral nerve sheath tumors. Method: MR imaging at 3 T was performed in 22 patients (mean age 41.9 ± 17.1y, 13 women) with histologically confirmed schwannomas (N = 18) and histologically confirmed neurofibromas (N = 11), including a 3D DW turbo spin echo sequence with fat suppression. Diffusion tensor parameters were computed and fiber tracks were determined. Evaluation was performed by two radiologists and one orthopedic surgeon blinded for final diagnosis. Mean diffusivity was computed to allow further assessment of tumor microstructure. Preoperative fascicle visualization was graded, fascicles were categorized regarding anatomical location and amount of fascicles surrounding the tumor. The agreement of imaging findings with intraoperative findings was assessed. Results: On 78.3 % of the DTI images, the fascicle visualization was rated as good or very good. Tractography differences were observed in schwannomas and neurofibromas, showing schwannomas to be significantly more often located eccentrically to the nerve (94.8 %) than neurofibromas (0 %, P < 0.01). Fascicles were significantly more often continuous (87.5 %) in schwannomas, while in neurofibromas, none of the tracks was graded to be continuous (0 %, P = 0.014). A substantial agreement between fiber tracking and surgical anatomy was found regarding the fascicle courses surrounding the tumor (κ = 0.78). Mean diffusivity of schwannomas (1.5 ± 0.2 × 10−3 mm2/s) was significantly lower than in neurofibromas (1.8 ± 0.2 × 10−3 mm2/s; P < 0.001). The Youden index showed an optimal cutoff at 1.7 × 10−3 mm2/s (sensitivity, 0.91; specificity, 0.78; J = 0.69). Conclusions: Preoperative diffusion tensor imaging allowed to accurately differentiate between schwannomas and neurofibromas and to describe their location in relation to the nerve fascicles for preoperative planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109110
JournalEuropean Journal of Radiology
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Nerve sheath neoplasms
  • Neurofibromas
  • Schwannomas


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