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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010 Apr;194(4):964-71. doi: 10.2214/AJR.09.3011.

Pilot study assessing differentiation of steatosis hepatis, hepatic iron overload, and combined disease using two-point dixon MRI at 3 T: in vitro and in vivo results of a 2D decomposition technique.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, DUMC 3808, Durham, NC 22710, USA.



The purpose of our study was to evaluate whether two-point Dixon MRI using a 2D decomposition technique facilitates metabolite differentiation between lipids and iron in standardized in vitro liver phantoms with in vivo patient validation and allows semiquantitative in vitro assessment of metabolites associated with steatosis, iron overload, and combined disease.


The acrylamide-based phantoms were made to reproduce the T1- and T2-weighted MRI appearances of physiologic hepatic parenchyma and hepatic steatosis-iron overload by the admixture of triglycerides and ferumoxides. Combined disease was simulated using joint admixtures of triglycerides and ferumoxides at various concentrations. For phantom validation, 30 patients were included, of whom 10 had steatosis, 10 had iron overload, and 10 had no liver disease. For MRI an in-phase/opposed-phase T1-weighted sequence with TR/TE(opposed-phase)/TE(in-phase) of 4.19/1.25/2.46 was used. Fat/water series were obtained by Dixon-based algorithms. In-phase and opposed-phase and fat/water ratios were calculated. Statistical cluster analysis assessed ratio pairs of physiologic liver, steatosis, iron overload, and combined disease in 2D metabolite discrimination plots.


Statistical assessment proved that metabolite decomposition in phantoms simulating steatosis (1.77|0.22; in-phase/opposed-phase|fat/water ratios), iron overload (0.75|0.21), and healthy control subjects (1.09|0.05) formed three clusters with distinct ratio pairs. Patient validation for hepatic steatosis (3.29|0.51), iron overload (0.56|0.41), and normal control subjects (0.99|0.05) confirmed this clustering (p < 0.001). One-dimensional analysis assessing in vitro combined disease only with in-phase/opposed-phase ratios would have failed to characterize metabolites. The 2D analysis plotting in-phase/opposed-phase and fat/water ratios (2.16|0.59) provided accurate semiquantitative metabolite decomposition (p < 0.001).


MR Dixon imaging facilitates metabolite decomposition of intrahepatic lipids and iron using in vitro phantoms with in vivo patient validation. The proposed decomposition technique identified distinct in-phase/opposed-phase and fat/water ratios for in vitro steatosis, iron overload, and combined disease.

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