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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996 Aug;167(2):355-8.

Water fraction of lumbar vertebral bone marrow estimated from chemical shift misregistration on MR imaging: normal variations with age and sex.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Gunma University Hospital, Japan.



Our objective was to use the chemical-shift misregistration effect of MR imaging to measure the variation in the water fraction in vertebral bone marrow with respect to patient age and sex.


We examined prospectively 211 subjects (5-84 years old; 108 male and 103 female subjects) who had no history of hematologic disorders. We obtained midsagittal proton density-weighted spin-echo images (2500/22 [TR/TE]) with a narrow sampling bandwidth (6250 Hz). Misregistered signals from lipid protons of 6-10 mm (upward shift in the readout direction) were obtained with the chemical-shift effect. By measuring the mean signal intensities of the water voxels and the water-plus-lipid voxels, we calculated a region of interest in each vertebral body for L1 to L3. The water fraction of bone marrow was then calculated as 100 x (signal intensity of water voxels/signal intensity of water-plus-lipid voxels). Individual water fractions were calculated from the average values for the water fractions of the L1-L3 bodies.


In the male subjects, the water fraction showed a rapid decrease in the older patients in the 5- to 34-year-old group. (Mean water fractions for male patients who were 5-14, 15-24, and 25-34 years old were 75.2%, 69.0%, and 53.7%, respectively.) For male patients more than 25 years old, the water fraction remained almost constant (approximately 50%). In female subjects who were 5-44 years old, the water fraction exceeded 69% and remained almost constant. However, the water fraction rapidly decreased in women more than 45 years old. (Mean water fractions for female patients who were 35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 years old were 70.9%, 61.1%, and 49.7%, respectively.) A comparison between male subjects and female subjects showed that the water fraction for women who were 25-54 years old exceeded the water fraction for men in the same age group (25-34 years old, p < .0001; 35-44 years old, p < .001; 45-54 years old, p < .05).


MR imaging showed that male and female subjects convert hematopoietic marrow to fatty marrow in the lumbar vertebral bodies in significantly different ways. The data obtained for the normal water fraction of bone marrow may prove useful for evaluating diseases that affect marrow.

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