Dr. Agrawal is a Nuclear Medicine Fellow, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, St. Louis, MO; Dr. Sethi is a Research Associate, Department of Radiology, and Dr. Oto is a Professor, Department of Radiology, Biological Sciences Division, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
In this second half of a 2-part series, we discuss recent studies
demonstrating the role of dynamic magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and
diffusion-weighted imaging in characterizing the benign and malignant
process of the endometrium. MR imaging allows accurate distinction
between various benign and malignant uterine and ovarian conditions when
ultrasound is indeterminate, and can serve as an adjunct to
diagnosticlaproscopy, hysteroscopy, hysterosalpingography, and
transvaginal USG in patients being evaluated for infertility.
Advanced MR imaging
studies have emphasized the role of dynamic MR imaging and diffusion
weighted imaging in characterizing the benign and malignant process of
the endometrium. Park et al demonstrated 95% of benign lesions and 100%
of sarcomas reach late peak enhancement at 2 to 3 min with persistent
strong enhancement on late CE T1WI. On the other hand 72% of endometrial
cancers showed early peak enhancement within 1 min and showed weak
enhancement with gradual washout on late CE T1WI.27 Wang et
al showed that mean ADC of stage 1 endometrial carcinoma was
significantly lower than that of normal endometrium and benign
endometrial lesions and proposed to add DW imaging as an adjunct in the
routine MR protocol for assessment of uterine lesions.28 A
non-enhanced MR imaging study by Inada et al demonstrated the mean ADC
value of endometrial cancer was significantly lower than those of the
normal endometrium, myometrium, leiomyoma and adenomyosis (p<0.05)
and concluded that DW imaging can be helpful in the detection of uterine
endometrial cancer in nonenhanced MR imaging.29
MR Imaging of the adnexa
Normal adnexal anatomy
ovaries in patients of reproductive age are more consistently
visualized than in postmenopausal women where they may not be seen in up
to 60% of patients. On T1WI signal and contains high-intensity
follicles while the medulla has intermediate-intensity. During the
menstrual phase, the ovaries decrease in size. The ovaries then
gradually enlarge during the proliferative phase and during the
periovulation phase reach their maximum size and have an enlarged
dominant follicle. During this periovulation phase the medulla has
high-signal intensity on T2 due to edematous vascularized stroma and may
show high signal on DW images likely from T2 shine-through. The
fallopian tubes are approximately 10 cm long within the superior portion
of broad ligament and normal tubes are not routinely visualized.30-34
The number of benign masses of the ovary far exceeds the number of malignant masses.35
Ovarian masses, such as benign cysts and endometriomas, can be
effectively treated with laparoscopic surgery in patients who have
nonsuspicious benign imaging features and thus obviate the need of
laparotomy in many young patients.36-38 MR imaging is by far
the most accurate imaging technique in characterizing an ovarian mass
and should be primarily used as problem solving tool serving as an
adjunct to ultrasound, which, for practical reasons, remains the initial
examination of choice. When utilized appropriately it is a cost
effective technique for guiding further management in selected group of
Both T1 (with fat saturation) and T2
acquisition are fundamental. Using a relatively long echo time can
accentuate the signal intensity difference in mixed solid cystic
lesions. A small field of view, high-resolution matrix, thin sections,
and gadolinium-enhanced T1WI improve characterization and detection of
ovarian lesions. Benign ovarian cysts: Most ovarian cysts in females of reproductive age are functional cysts.42
Follicular cysts results from failure of the follicle to ovulate or
regress. They are generally simple cysts with thin walls (<3mm) and
rarely greater than 5 cm. Corpus luteal cyst result from failure of
regression of corpus luteum and are usually >2.5 cm. These cysts can
be followed up by ultrasound and usually resolve in 2 to 3 cycles.31,43-45 On
MRI the cyst wall is generally thicker, has intermediate-signal
intensity on T1 and relatively low-signal intensity on T2 and shows
enhancement from increased vascularity of the thick luteinized cell
layer. These cysts can be complex from hemorrhage and show relatively
high-signal intensity on T1 and intermediate to high on T2WI.
Hemorrhagic cysts can mimic endometrioma; however, functional cysts lack
T2 shortening, a feature of endometriomas from repeated bleed. In case
of diagnostic dilemma, follow up with ultrasound can be done for
Simple adnexal cysts in
postmenopausal females are very common. The prevalence of simple cystic
lesion in these women according to2 large ovarian cancer screening
trials ranges from 14% to 18%.47,48 Approximately 50% to 70% of cysts resolve on follow up exam and the majority of those that persist remain unchanged.49,50 Risk
of malignancy in unilocular ovarian cystic lesion <10 cm in diameter
in asymptomatic postmenopausal women is extremely low.51
is a fairly common condition in women of reproductive age group with a
prevalence of about 10%. It is characterized by presence of endometrial
implants outside of uterine cavity. The most common sites are ovaries,
uterine ligament, cul-de-sac, serosal uterine surface, fallopian tubes,
rectosigmoid, and bladder dome.
Hemorrhagic products result in T2*
effect—diffuse darkening or dependent graded “shading” of fluid
contents, bright and dark fluid lev
els from sedimentation of
blood products. There is usually T2 darkening in the walls due to
hemosiderin deposition. Diffuse darkening can be differentiated from
fibrous tumors by identifying high T1 signal in endometriomas (Figure
8). Endometriomas acquire an iron concentration many times greater than
whole blood resulting in very high-signal intensity similar to fat.
Multiplicity is another feature favoring a diagnosis of endometrioma.31,45,52 Sensitivity and specificity of MR imaging vary from 90% to 92% and 91% to 98% respectively.53-57
Malignant transformation occurs in about 1% of cases, usually to
endometroid and clear cell carcinoma. In suspicious cases, contrast
enhancement can be helpful. Diffuse loss of shading effect on serial
exams due to the dilutional effect of secretions from malignant
epithelium can be another clue to malignant transformation.58
Mature cystic teratoma and dermoid cyst
are the most common ovarian neoplasm derived from germ cells
constituting approximately20% of all ovarian tumors. These are usually
diagnosed on ultrasound and MR imaging may be performed for better
characterization of a complex, predominantly solid mass with echogenic
foci. Dermoid cysts usually demonstrate visible fat as high-signal
intensity on both T1and FSE T2-weighted images. Out-of-phase imaging
(selective fat suppression technique) has a sensitivity of 92% to 95%
for differentiation from hemorrhagic adnexal cyst. Focal T2 darkening
from calcifications, ossification or dental elements can be seen (Figure
9). Once the tumor is characterized, contrast-enhanced images are
usually not required.59,60 Malignant transformation occurs in
about 2% of mature teratomas. Invasive squamous cell carcinomas arising
from skin elements are the most common type and predominantly affect
postmenopausal women. The tumor spreads transmurally and invades
Benign cystic neoplasms and cystadenomas (serous and mucinous)
make up about 30% and 20% of all ovarian tumors, respectively.
Bilateral tumors are common and are more frequently with malignant.62
Serous cystadenomas are usually thin-walled, unilocular cystic lesions
filled with clear fluid and have minimal septations, although these can
be multilocular as well. Mucinous cystadenomas are usually larger
multilocular cystic lesions filled with gelatinous material. They show
different signal intensity on T1- and T2-weighted images witha “stained
glass” appearance because of variable viscosity of the cyst content
(Figure 10).63-65 The presence of papillary projections in
both tumors raises suspicion for a borderline or malignant tumor.
Contrast-enhanced studies are essential to differentiate benign from
borderline or malignant tumors. These allow exact wall thickness to be
measured and also demonstrate enhancing papillary projections.58,66
Benign solid tumors (Brenner, fibroma, thecoma, fibrothecoma) are all solid ovarian tumors that should be considered malignant with the
of a few tumors like Brenner, fibroma, thecoma, and fibrothecoma.
Brenner tumor, also known as transitional cell tumor, arises from
surface epithelium and contains dense stroma. These are mostly benign
and constitute 2% to 3% of all ovarian neoplasm. Brenner tumors are
usually <2 cm and are associated with other ovarian tumor in about
30% of cases when they commonly affect the ipsilateral ovary.31
Fibroma, thecoma, and fibrothecoma arise from the stromal elements of
the ovary. Fibromas constitute about 4% of all ovarian neoplasm.67
If thecal elements are present, these are called fibrothecomas. These
thecal cells secrete estrogen and hence tumors like fibrothecomas,
thecomas may be concomitantly associated with an enlarged uterus,
endometrial hyperplasia or frank endometrial carcinoma. Brenner,
fibroma, and fibrothecoma are typically homogenously hypointense on T2
and intermediate to low-signal intensity on T1-weighted images. Thecoma
predominantly have thecal cells and lipid laden cells without prominent
fibrosis resulting in intermediate-signal intensity on T2-weighted
images. Application of chemical shift imaging similar to that applied
for adrenal will identify the prominent lipid component.45
When an intermediate signal is identified on T2 due to edema or
degeneration contrast enhanced T1-weighted images are helpful. These
tumors show no or minimal enhancement, while malignant neoplasm usually
shows obvious contrast enhancement.40,52 These solid benign ovarian neoplasms may be associated with ascites and pleural effusion referred to as Meig’s syndrome.68
a low T2 adnexal mass, the main differential to be considered is a
pedunculated uterine leiomyoma. In cases with diagnostic dilemma,oblique
T2-weighted images with axis perpendicular to the long axis of uterus
may be helpful. This will help demonstrate the connection and relation
of the mass to the uterus. Identification of a vascular pedicle showing
flow voids between the uterus and mass confirms uterine leiomyoma.
Additionally, leiomyoma may demonstrate a ‘claw sign’ with a rim of
myometrium around the margin of the mass; however, remnants of normal
ovarian tissue may also drape around an ovarian neoplasm creating a
Inflammatory masses (tubo-ovarian abscess) are
diagnosed clinically and with ultrasound. When acute inflammation has
subsided, signs and symptoms of inflammation are less prominent and may
be misdiagnosed as ovarian cancer. In such cases, MR imaging may help to
make the diagnosis.69 Tubo-ovarian abscesses may demonstrate
a complex solid cystic mass that enhances brightly and may have an
appearance concerning for malignancy. One study has shown higher
sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of MRI of 95%, 89%, 93%
respectively,in diagnosing pelvic inflammatory disease than transvaginal
ultrasound (81%, 78%, 80%).70 The presence of a “halo,” an
ill-defined border of the mass, stranding-of-fat plane and diffuse wall
thickening are a few features that may help distinguish TOA from ovarian
neoplasm.71 MR imaging helps identify the extent of
inflammation from ill-defined hyperintesity on fat suppressed
T2-weighted images. The abscesses may show a typical hypointense center
on T1 and hyperintense center on T2 with a thick brightly enhancing
wall. Purulent material however may result in variable-signal intensity
on T1- and T2-weighted images (Figure 11).31,72
Malignant ovarian neoplasm is
a leading cause of death among all gynecologic malignancies. CA-125 is
elevated in about 80% of cases at presentation. Although ultrasound is
the primary imaging modality for adnexal masses, MR imaging has shown to
be the most cost effective intervention for sonogaphically
indeterminate masses, according to a detailed meta-analysis.73
Contrast-enhanced MR imaging appears to be more accurate than
transvaginal sonography in differentiating malignant from benign adnexal
masses.74-77 MR imaging in ovarian cancer hasa high reported accuracy, ranging from 83% to 93%.78-81 The
features that have been described as most suspicious for diagnosing a
malignant over a benign lesion include multiple (>5) septa,
irregularity, and vegetation on the wall and septum of a cystic lesion,
maximal diameter >4 to6 cm, and early enhancement on DCE MR images
(Figure 12).79 Hricack et al have described necrosis in a
solid lesion as most predictive of malignancy in addition to vegetations
in a cystic lesion.81 Spencer et al suggested assessment of a
T2-weighted inhomogenous mass with contrast-enhanced T1-weighted
imaging with contrast enhancement suggesting malignancy.52
Supporting features like involvement of pelvic organs or sidewall,
peritoneal, mesenteric or omental disease, ascites, and adenopathy
increase the sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing malignancy.82
Malignant tumors of epithelial origin represents
60% of all ovarian and 85% of all malignant ovarian neoplasm. The most
common tumors in this category are serous and mucinous
cystadenocarcinoma. Others include clear cell carcinoma and endometroid
Serous cystadenocarcinomas are the most
common variety representing about 50% of all malignant ovarian tumors.
These constitute about 50% of all malignant ovarian neoplasm and are
often bilateral and present as a complex solid and cystic mass. Mucinous
cystadenocarcinomas constitute about 10% of all malignant ovarian
tumors. These are often unilateral, larger in size with higher T1-signal
intensity from high protein concentration filling the multilocuated
solid cystic mass. Areas of hemorrhage and necrosis may be seen in both
serous and mucinous tumors. As described before, the presence of
multiple septations and papillary projections with brightly enhancing
solid component help differentiate these from benign masses. In mucinous
cancers, a bright component on contrast-enhanced images should be
carefully compared to the T1-noncontrast images to confirm enhancement.
Endometroid cancers account for approximately 15% of all malignant
ovarian tumors. These tumors are mostly solid masses with areas of
necrosis, usually bilateral, and often associated with endometrial
hyperplasia, endometrial carcinoma or endometriosis. The diagnosis
should be considered when a clearly enhancing nodule is identified in a
predominantly cystic endometrioma. Clear cell cancer accounts for
approximately 5% of all malignant ovarian neoplasm. These tumors
generally present as a unilocular cystic mass with a solid enhancing
component and can mimic serous tumors. Similar to endometroid cancer
these tumors may also arise within endometrioma.
Malignant tumors of sex cord stromal origin are
difficult to differentiate among the histologic subtypes based on
imaging features. They constitute about 5% to 8% of all malignant
ovarian neoplasm and include granulosa cell tumor (arise from primitive
sex cords) and Sertoli-Leydig cell tumor (arise from theca and Leydig
cells). Most tumors exhibit estrogenic effects. Granulosa cell tumors
can be seen both in prepubertal (juvenile subtype) and peri or
postmenopausal (adult subtype) females. They can present with abnormal
vaginal bleeding and can be associated with endometrial hyperplasia,
polyps, and carcinoma.These tumors are confined to the ovary, are rarely
bilateral, and are associated with an excellent prognosis. They can
range from entirely solid to completely cystic tumors.83 These
tumors have rich fibrous stroma resulting in a low-signal intensity of
T2WI. They typically appear as a sponge-like multilocular cystic mass
filled with blood clots.84,85
Malignant tumors of germ cell origin account
for approximately 5% of all malignant ovarian neoplasm and occur in the
first 2 decades of life.These include dysgerminoma, endodermal sinus
tumor, and immature teratoma. Dysgerminomas have an excellent prognosis.
They present characteristically as multilobulated solid masses with
prominent fibrovascular septa. Speckled calcification may be present.86
Endodermal sinus tumor, also known as yolk sac tumor, is associated
with a poor prognosis. They present as large, complex pelvic masses that
extend into the abdomen containing both solid and cystic components.
Most patients have an elevated alpha-fetoprotein level.87,88
Immature teratoma is a rare germ cell tumor containing tissue from all 3
germ cell layers. The tumor capsule is generally perforated and hence
not always identified. These tumors demonstrate both cystic and solid
components with scattered calcifications and small foci of fat.89,90
can arise from intestinal tumors, the stomach most commonly, breast
cancer via hematogenous or lymphatic spread orserosal implantation of
cells shed into peritoneal cavity. The term ‘Krukenberg tumor’
specifically refers to tumors with malignant mucin-filled signet ring
cells within the ovarian stroma. Krukenberg tumors are generally
bilateral and have both solid and cystic component with varying T1 and
T2 signal.31 Ectopic pregnancy (EP) is usually
diagnosed by transvaginal sonography. MR imaging seems to have an
advantage in its ability to accurately localize and provide better
delineation of the focus owing to its excellent tissue contrast for
indeterminate cases. MR imaging findings include hematosalpinx,
enhancement of a fallopian tube wall, a gestation sac-like cystic
structure, bloody ascites and frequently surrounding acute hematoma of
distinct low intensity on T2-weighted images.91 A study by
Yoshigi et al concluded that MRI using T(2)*-WI is a sensitive,
specific,and accurate method to evaluate EP because of its sensitivity
to fresh hematoma.92
Pelvic floor imaging is
utilized to accurately detect if specific pelvic dysfunction like stress
urinary incontinence (SUI), pelvic organ prolapse (POP), pelvic pain or
pressure, and anal incontinence are associated with specific pelvic
floor abnormalities. MR is the imaging modality of choice for the
evaluating pelvic floor because of its superior visualization of pelvic
musculature, fascial planes, and the visceral organs that constitute the
pelvic floor.93,94 It has been suggested that identifying a
predominant anatomic defect on static images and visualizing
corresponding implication on the kinematics of the pelvic organ on
dynamic sequences would allow a defect-specific surgical approach to
pelvic floor dysfunction for each patient. Dynamic imaging can be
performed in different phases while the patient is at rest, during
pelvic floor contraction,during variable levels of stress, and with a
Valsalva maneuver (Figure 13).95 Hecht et al suggested
inclusion of near real-time continuous imaging with a dynamic true fast
imaging with steady-state precession (FISP) sequence in addition to
dynamic multiplanar HASTE sequences to evaluate pelvic floor
Acute pelvic pain during pregnancy is
usually assessed by sonography initially. In pregnant patients
sonographic evaluation can sometimes be limited by the gravid uterus and
gas in the bowel. MR imaging, with its superior contrast resolution and
without fetal exposure to ionizing radiation, can be used as an
effective problem solving alternative. The safety of MR imaging during
pregnancy is not yet established, although a few studies in humans have
shown no long-term adverse effect in children who underwent MR imaging
as fetuses.97-100 Various indications for pelvic MR may
include, but are not limited to, gynecologic conditions such as
hemorrhagic ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian torsion,
ectopic pregnancy, an impending miscarriage secondary to fetal distress
or demise, and placental abruption, and to nongynecologic etiologies,
such as appendicitis, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious enteritis,
diverticulitis, urethral calculi, pyelonephritis, and pelvic
According to American College of Radiology (ACR)
appropriateness criteria, when a gynecologic condition is suspected, MR
of pelvis in acute pelvic pain in pregnant patient may be appropriate
when ultrasound is inconclusive or nondiagnostic. When a nongynecologic
condition is suspected MRI is usually appropriate and it was rated as
‘8’ with ‘9’ being considered the most appropriate study. Nevertheless,
the recommendation for administering gadolinium contrast agents to
perform an in-depth analysis of benefit to mother and fetus versus risk
of fetal exposure to free gadolinium ions that may stay in the amniotic
fluid after excretion from fetal kidneys for an indeterminate time.101
knowledge of the spectrum of MR imaging features of various physiologic
variations and pathologic conditions that affect the female pelvis is
essential for establishing an accurate diagnosis and guiding further
management. MR is a reliable staging method for preoperative assessment
of endometrial and cervical carcinoma. MR imaging allows accurate
distinction between various benign and malignant uterine and ovarian
conditions when ultrasound is indeterminate. It can serve as an adjunct
to diagnostic laproscopy, hysteroscopy, hysterosalpingography, and
transvaginal USG in patients being evaluated for infertility.
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Appropriateness Criteria® acute pelvic pain in the reproductive age
group, released 2008;