Quantification of liver iron concentration using the apparent susceptibility of hepatic vessels
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Background: The quantification of liver iron concentration (LIC) is important for the monitoring of the body iron level in patients with iron overload. Conventionally, LIC is quantified through R2 or R2* mapping using MRI. In this paper, we demonstrate an alternative approach for LIC quantification through measuring the apparent susceptibility of hepatic vessels using quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM). Methods: QSM was performed in the liver region with the iterative susceptibility weighted imaging and mapping (iSWIM) algorithm, using the geometry of the vessels extracted from magnitude images as constraints. The susceptibilities of liver tissue were estimated from the apparent susceptibility of the hepatic veins and then converted to LIC. The accuracy of the proposed method was first validated using simulations, and then confirmed using in vivo data collected on 8 healthy controls and 11 patients at 3T. The effects of data acquisition parameters were studied using simulations, and the LICs estimated using QSM were compared with those estimated using R2* mapping. Results: Simulation results showed that the use of a 3D data acquisition protocol with higher image resolution led to improved accuracy in LIC quantification using QSM. Both simulations and in vivo data results demonstrated that the LICs estimated using the proposed QSM method agreed well with those estimated using R2* mapping. With the shortest echo time being 2.5ms in the multi-echo gradient echo sequence, simulations results showed that LIC up to 12.45 mg iron/g dry tissue can be quantified using the proposed QSM method. For the in vivo data, the highest LIC measured was 11.32 mg iron/g dry tissue. Conclusions: The proposed method offers a reliable and flexible way to quantify LIC and has the potential to extend the range of LIC that can be accurately measured using R2* and QSM.
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