Radiation necrosis in the brain: Imaging features and differentiation from tumor recurrence

Academic Article


  • Radiation necrosis in the brain commonly occurs in three distinct clinical scenarios, namely, radiation therapy for head and neck malignancy or intracranial extraaxial tumor, stereotactic radiation therapy (including radiosurgery) for brain metastasis, and radiation therapy for primary brain tumors. Knowledge of the radiation treatment plan, amount of brain tissue included in the radiation port, type of radiation, location of the primary malignancy, and amount of time elapsed since radiation therapy is extremely important in determining whether the imaging abnormality represents radiation necrosis or recurrent tumor. Conventional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings of these two entities overlap considerably, and even at histopathologic analysis, tumor mixed with radiation necrosis is a common finding. Advanced imaging modalities such as diffusion tensor imaging and perfusion MR imaging (with calculation of certain specific parameters such as apparent diffusion coefficient ratios, relative peak height, and percentage of signal recovery), MR spectroscopy, and positron emission tomography can be useful in differentiating between recurrent tumor and radiation necrosis. In everyday practice, the visual assessment of diffusion-weighted and perfusion images may also be helpful by favoring one diagnosis over the other, with restricted diffusion and an elevated relative cerebral blood volume being seen much more frequently in recurrent tumor than in radiation necrosis. © RSNA, 2012.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 12071873
  • Author List

  • Shah R; Vattoth S; Jacob R; Manzil FFP; O'Malley JP; Borghei P; Patel BN; Curé JK
  • Start Page

  • 1343
  • End Page

  • 1359
  • Volume

  • 32
  • Issue

  • 5