Aim: To evaluate if diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is useful in characterizing liver lesions in patients with cirrhosis. Materials and methods: A retrospective review revealed 37 patients with cirrhosis who had 41 histologically proven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) lesions. Another 20 patents with cirrhosis had 29 solid nodules that remained stable for at least 12 months and were deemed to be benign hepatic nodules (BHN). Of the HCC lesions, 14 were well-differentiated (WD HCC), 20 were moderately differentiated, and seven were poorly differentiated histology. For all lesions, two reviewers analysed signal characteristics and made apparent diffusion coefficient value (ADC) measurements. Results: Visual analysis of DWI was useful in that no HCC was hypointense and no BHN was hyperintense to liver. Visual analysis of DWI was not useful in separating WD HCC from higher grades. There was substantial overlap in ADC values of the HCC and BHN. Among HCC lesions, ADC values of more than 0.99 × 10-3 mm2/s had sensitivity and specificity of 85% and 86% for reviewer 1, and 63% and 64% for reviewer 2 in diagnosing WD HCC. Conclusions: ADC measurements of BHN were higher than that of HCC, and the ADC values of WD HCC were higher than that of more aggressive grades of HCC. However, quantitative measurements may not help in determining the histological grade of individual cases of HCC.