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Abdominal images at 3T acquired with fast spin echo (FSE) sequences often exhibit signal voids due to RF transmit field inhomogeneities. Theory suggests, however, that the repeated refocusing pulses of FSE are capable of maintaining signal even at reduced RF amplitudes if the magnetization is suitably prepared. Here we propose a modified excitation strategy for FSE that is more robust to transmit field inhomogeneities than conventional FSE. The new excitation approach replaces the standard 90° excitation pulse with a discretely sampled hyperbolic secant pulse that creates a square wave longitudinal magnetization as a function of gradient and off-resonance induced phase shifts between the subsequent echoes of the FSE sequence. This pulse is followed by the conventional train of refocusing pulses except that the first few pulses increase from near zero to the desired refocusing amplitude. Simulations and in vivo results at 3T indicate preserved image quality and much greater robustness of this new sequence to nonuniform RF fields. This robustness comes at the cost of 20% reduction in signal when the RF field is uniform and increased motion sensitivity. This RF field-insensitive sequence may overcome challenges of body imaging at high field and in patients with ascites.