Intracranial germ cell tumors differ in histology and location, and require different clinical management strategies. We characterized the imaging features that may aid pre-operative differentiation of intracranial germinomas and non-germinomatous germ cell tumors (NGGCTs). This retrospective study analyzed 85 patients with intracranial germ cell tumors and adequate preoperative or pretreatment MRIs between 2000 and 2013 at our institution. Pretreatment MRI characteristics, apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values, tumor histopathology, and patient outcomes were compared. NGGCTs occurred in the pineal region and cerebral hemispheres more often than germinomas; all bifocal lesions were germinomas. NGGCTs (36.6 ± 17.0 mm) were significantly larger than germinomas (25.7 ± 11.6 mm; P = 0.002). The presence of pure solid tumor (45.5 vs. 20.0%, P = 0.033) and an infiltrative margin (20.0 vs. 3.3%, P = 0.035) were significantly more common in germinomas than NGGCTs. The presence of intratumoral T1 hyperintense foci (66.7 vs. 10.9%, P < 0.001) and moderate/marked enhancement (86.7 vs. 50.9%, P < 0.001) were significantly more common in NGGCTs than in germinomas. Mean ADCmean values (×10−3 mm2/s) were significantly lower in germinomas (1.113 ± 0.415) than in NGGCTs (2.011 ± 0.694, P = 0.001). Combined a lack of T1 hyperintense foci and an ADCmean threshold value (1.143 × 10−3 mm2/s) had the highest specificity (91.3%) and positive predictive value (92.3%), while the combination of lack of a T1 hyperintensense foci, no/mild enhancement, and an ADCmean threshold value had 100% sensitivity and 100% negative-predictive value for discriminating germinomas from NGGCTs. Pre-operative conventional MRI characteristics and diffusion-weighted MRI help clinicians to assess patients with intracranial germ cell tumors. Tumor size, location, T1 hyperintense foci, intratumoral cystic components, tumor margin and enhancing patterns demonstrate contrast between germinomas and NGGCTs. Serum tumor markers and adjunctive combination with T1 hyperintensity and/or enhancing pattern with ADC offer potential in preoperative differentiating intracranial germinomas and NGGCTs.
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