Fat Quantification in the Abdomen
Fatty liver disease is characterized histologically by hepatic steatosis, the abnormal accumulation of lipid in hepatocytes. It is classified into alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and is an increasingly important cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Assessing the severity of hepatic steatosis in these conditions is important for diagnostic and prognostic purposes, as hepatic steatosis is potentially reversible if diagnosed early. The criterion standard for assessing hepatic steatosis is liver biopsy, which is limited by sampling error, its invasive nature, and associated morbidity. As such, noninvasive imaging-based methods of assessing hepatic steatosis are needed. Ultrasound and computed tomography are able to suggest the presence of hepatic steatosis based on imaging features, but are unable to accurately quantify hepatic fat content. Since Dixon's seminal work in 1984, magnetic resonance imaging has been used to compute the signal fat fraction from chemical shift–encoded imaging, commonly implemented as out-of-phase and in-phase imaging. However, signal fat fraction is confounded by several factors that limit its accuracy and reproducibility. Recently, advanced chemical shift–encoded magnetic resonance imaging methods have been developed that address these confounders and are able to measure the proton density fat fraction, a standardized, accurate, and reproducible biomarker of fat content. The use of these methods in the liver, as well as in other abdominal organs such as the pancreas, adrenal glands, and adipose tissue will be discussed in this review.