Measurement of liver fat fraction and iron with MRI and MR spectroscopy techniques

Puneet Sharma, Maria Altbach, Jean Philippe Galons, Bobby Kalb, Diego R. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Diffuse liver disease is a widespread global healthcare burden, and the abnormal accumulation of lipid and/or iron is common to important disease processes. Developing the improved methods for detecting and quantifying liver lipid and iron is an important clinical need. The inherent risk, invasiveness, and sampling error of liver biopsy have prompted the development of noninvasive imaging methods for lipid and iron assessment. Ultrasonography and computed tomography have the ability to detect diffuse liver disease, but with limited accuracy. The purpose of this review is to describe the current state-of-the-art methods for quantifying liver lipid and iron using magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy, including their implementation, benefits, and potential pitfalls. Imaging- and spectroscopy-based methods are naturally suited for lipid and iron quantification. Lipid can be detected and decomposed from the inherent chemical shift between lipid and water signals, whereas iron imparts significant paramagnetic susceptibility to tissue, which accelerates proton relaxation. However, measurements of these biomarkers are confounded by technical and biological effects. Current methods must address these factors to allow a precise correlation between the lipid fraction and iron concentration. Although this correlation becomes increasingly challenging in the presence of combined lipid and iron accumulation, advanced techniques show promise for delineating these quantities through multi-lipid peak analysis, T2 water mapping, and fast single-voxel water-lipid spectroscopy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalDiagnostic and Interventional Radiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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