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OBJECTIVES: Saturation transfer (ST) phosphorus MR spectroscopy ((31)P MRS) enables in vivo insight into energy metabolism and thus could identify liver conditions currently diagnosed only by biopsy. This study assesses the reproducibility of the localized (31)P MRS ST in liver at 7 T and tests its potential for noninvasive differentiation of non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and steatohepatitis (NASH). METHODS: After the ethics committee approval, reproducibility of the localized (31)P MRS ST at 7 T and the biological variation of acquired hepato-metabolic parameters were assessed in healthy volunteers. Subsequently, 16 suspected NAFL/NASH patients underwent MRS measurements and diagnostic liver biopsy. The Pi-to-ATP exchange parameters were compared between the groups by a Mann-Whitney U test and related to the liver fat content estimated by a single-voxel proton ((1)H) MRS, measured at 3 T. RESULTS: The mean exchange rate constant (k) in healthy volunteers was 0.31 ± 0.03 s(-1) with a coefficient of variation of 9.0 %. Significantly lower exchange rates (p < 0.01) were found in NASH patients (k = 0.17 ± 0.04 s(-1)) when compared to healthy volunteers, and NAFL patients (k = 0.30 ± 0.05 s(-1)). Significant correlation was found between the k value and the liver fat content (r = 0.824, p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that the (31)P MRS ST technique provides a tool for gaining insight into hepatic ATP metabolism and could contribute to the differentiation of NAFL and NASH. KEY POINTS: • 1D localized (31) P MRS saturation transfer in the liver is reproducible at 7 T • NASH patients have decreased hepatic Pi-to-ATP exchange rate • In this study, hepatic metabolic activity correlates with liver fat content.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Radiol

Publication Date





1602 - 1609


Adenosine Triphosphate, Adult, Aged, Animals, Biopsy, Diagnosis, Differential, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Liver, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Middle Aged, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Phosphorus Radioisotopes, Reproducibility of Results, Young Adult