Sperling Prostate Center

What is the PI-RADS Score?

The tremendous international interest in 3T multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) brought with it the challenge of how to standardize the reporting of prostate image analysis among radiologists around the globe. The European Society of Urogenital Radiology (ESUR) proposed a numeric system called the Prostate Imaging Reporting and Data System, or PI-RADS, for prostate cancer detection. It is based in an earlier system for breast imaging.

First, a word about 3T mpMRI. A powerful 3 Tesla (3T) magnet is the hardware for capturing prostate images. Sophisticated software can amplify various features of these images in ways that emphasize certain tissue parameters. Each parameter shows a specific difference between normal tissue and prostate cancer. Here is a simple explanation of the four commonly used parameters:

  • T2 weighted images give excellent anatomic detail and thus show the location of a suspicious area.
  • Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) gives functional information about the movement of water molecules, which is different in healthy tissue than in tumors.
  • Dynamic contrast-enhancement (DCE) can point to a tumor by revealing abnormal blood flow from network of abnormal blood vessels that feed the tumor (angiogenesis)
  • MRI spectroscopy (MRS) is used to show concentrations of biochemicals called metabolites, since the presence of certain metabolites characterizes prostate cancer.

Continued below…

Wondering about your PI-RAD score?

The Sperling Prostate Center is here to help you make sense of it. Schedule a free consultation to review your MRI with Dr. Sperling, and we’ll work with you to plan the best course of action for your unique circumstances.

So, back to PI-RADS. You are probably familiar with the Gleason grade as a system for classifying prostate cancer cells according to aggression. The Gleason scale ranges from 1 to 5, where 1 indicates no cancer at all, and 5 indicates very aggressive disease. In that sense, PI-RADS is similar, but it’s an interpretation of images, not actual cells. Thus, it has to do with interpreting the likelihood of cancer depending on what the images show.

It, too, is based on a score from 1 to 5 but there are two levels to the system.

Level One: Each parameter that shows up in an image (T2, DWI, DCE and MRS) is assigned a numerical value, with 1 being most probably benign and 5 being highly suspicious of malignancy.

Level Two: The values are added together. In centers that don’t analyze for MRS, only T2, DWI and DCE are added together. In centers that analyze for all four parameters, those values are summed. The total determines whether the PI-RADS classification is Level I, II, III, IV, or V. The table below shows the probability range from benign to highly suspicious for cancer.

PI-RADS Classification System

PI-RADS classification


Total T2, DWI, DCE

Total T2, DWI, DCE, MRS


Most probably benign

3, 4

4, 5


Probably benign

5, 6







Probably malignant




Most probably malignant



While the PI-RADS system is useful in guiding decisions about biopsy, treatment planning, and follow-up steps, it is not a standalone diagnosis. If you have a prostate MRI with a PI-RADS score the most important thing you can do now is have it analyzed by a qualified prostate MRI specialist. Dr. Dan Sperling is a world-renowned leader in advanced MRI-guided prostate imaging and treatment and can help you determine the safest, most effective next steps using this information. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.


Take the Next Step Today

Request your consultation, and we will be in touch within 24 hours to help you plan the best course of action for you.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

You may also be interested in...

WordPress Image Lightbox