Purpose: To determine the added value of qualitative and quantitative evaluation of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWI) in locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) restaging after neoadjuvant chemo-radiotherapy (CRT). Materials and Methods: A retrospective study was performed of 21 patients with LARC treated with CRT. All patients were evaluated with 1.5 T conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and DWI (0–1000 s/mm²) before starting therapy and after neoadjuvant CRT. All included patients underwent surgery after CRT: the histopathological evaluation of surgical specimens represented the reference standard for local staging after neoadjuvant therapy. The qualitative analysis was carried out by two operators in consensus, who reviewed the conventional MR image set [T1-weighted and T2-weighted morphological sequences + dynamic contrast-enhanced sequences (DCE)] and the combined set of conventional and DW images. For the quantitative analysis, the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values were measured at each examination. For each lesion, the mean ADC value (ADCpre and ADCpost) and the ΔADC (ADCpost – ADCpre) were calculated, and values of the three groups of response [complete response (pCR), partial response (pPR), stable disease (pSD)] were compared. Results: In LARC restaging, conventional MRI showed a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 50%, with a total diagnostic capacity of 71.40%, while by adding DWI sensitivity increased to 100%, specificity to 67%, and total diagnostic capacity to 90.40%. ΔADC correlates with treatment response and a cutoff of 1.35 × 10−3 mm²/s predicts the pCR with a sensitivity of 93.3% and a specificity of 83.3%. Conclusions: Adding DWI to conventional sequences may improve MRI capability to evaluate tumor response to CRT. The quantitative DWI assessment is promising, but larger studies are required.
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