Liver fat content determined by magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy
Hepatic steatosis as the most prevalent liver disorder can either be related to alcoholic liver disease (ALD) or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In both conditions, hepatocytes excessively accumulate fat-containing vacuoles within their cytoplasm, which is the key histological feature. In contrast to ALD, NAFLD is commonly associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity and insulin resistance. To determine increased liver fat content, liver biopsy is currently considered the gold standard. Besides the invasive technique, various other non-invasive techniques have been developed, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based methods. Among these techniques, ultrasound and CT provide only qualitative information about hepatic steatosis, whereas MRS- or MRI-based methods are able to determine even small amounts of fat accurately. These non-invasive magnetic resonance techniques have already proven their great potential, especially in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies regarding various metabolic conditions and medical treatment regimens. In this review, the most common, non-invasive MRS/MRI techniques for assessment of intrahepatic lipid content are described with their inherent advantages and limitations.