Currently, serum ferritin concentration is the best noninvasive estimator of liver iron content. This study investigated the ability of magnetic resonance imaging to determine hepatic iron concentration. Fisher rats were treated with either parenteral iron to increase levels or phlebotomy to lower them and achieved a wide range of liver iron concentrations. Rats were imaged using a clinical whole body scanner at 1.5 Tesla with a 15-cm Helmholtz surface coil and a 23-cm field of view. The ratio of signal intensity of liver to skeletal muscle from images of the live intact rats correlated well with chemically measured iron concentration of the liver (r = -.89, p < .0001, linear regression analysis). Transverse relaxation rates (1/calculated T2 relaxation times) also correlated with liver iron content (r = .66, p < .0001). The observation of a significant correlation between liver iron content and both signal intensities and T2 relaxation rates, obtained by magnetic resonance imaging, may have considerable clinical relevance. If adapted to humans, this technique would have obvious applications in the diagnosis and management of diseases associated with iron overload as well as in the investigation of the overall role of iron in various human liver diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging