Utility of MRI features in differentiation of central renal cell carcinoma and renal pelvic urothelial carcinoma

Natasha E. Wehrli, Min Ju Kim, Brent W. Matza, Jonathan Melamed, Samir S. Taneja, Andrew B. Rosenkrantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the utility of various morphologic and quantitative MRI features in differentiating central renal cell carcinoma (RCC) from renal pelvic urothelial carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS. Sixty patients (39 men and 21 women; mean [± SD] age, 65 ± 14 years; 48 with central RCC and 12 with renal pelvic urothelial carcinoma) who underwent MRI, including diffusion-weighted imaging (b values, 0, 400, and 800 s/mm2) and dynamic contrast-enhanced imaging, before histopathologic confirmation were included. Tumor T2 signal intensity and apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) were measured and normalized to muscle and CSF (hereafter referred to as normalized T2 signal and normalized ADC, respectively) and then were compared using receiver operating characteristic analysis. Also, two blinded radiologists independently assessed all tumors for various qualitative features, which were compared with the Fisher exact test and unpaired Student t test. RESULTS. Urothelial carcinoma exhibited significantly lower normalized ADC than did RCC (p = 0.008), but no significant difference was seen in ADC or normalized T2 signal intensity (p = 0.247-0.773). Normalized ADC had the highest area under the curve (0.757); normalized ADC below an optimal threshold of 0.451 was associated with sensitivity of 83% and specificity of 71% for diagnosing urothelial carcinoma. Features that were significantly more prevalent in urothelial carcinoma included global impression of urothelial carcinoma, location centered within the collecting system, collecting system defect, extension to the ureteropelvic junction, preserved renal shape, absence of cystic or necrotic areas, absence of hemorrhage, homogeneous enhancement, and hypovascularity (all p < 0.033). Increased T1 signal intensity suggestive of hemorrhage was significantly more prevalent in RCC (p = 0.02). Interreader agreement for the subjective features ranged from 61.7% to 98.3%. CONCLUSION. In addition to various qualitative MRI parameters, normalized ADC has utility in differentiating central RCC from renal pelvic urothelial carcinoma. Such differentiation may assist decisions regarding possible biopsy and treatment planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1267
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Apparent diffusion coefficient
  • Central renal cell carcinoma
  • Diffusion-weighted imaging
  • Mri
  • Normalized apparent diffusion coefficient
  • Normalized t2 signal
  • Renal pelvic urothelial carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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