Chemical shift: the artifact and clinical tool revisited

Radiographics. 1999 Mar-Apr;19(2):357-71. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.19.2.g99mr07357.


The chemical shift phenomenon refers to the signal intensity alterations seen in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging that result from the inherent differences in the resonant frequencies of precessing protons. Chemical shift was first recognized as a misregistration artifact of image data. More recently, however, chemical shift has been recognized as a useful diagnostic tool. By exploiting inherent differences in resonant frequencies of lipid and water, fatty elements within tissue can be confirmed with dedicated chemical shift MR pulse sequences. Alternatively, the recognition of chemical shift on images obtained with standard MR pulse sequences may corroborate the diagnosis of lesions with substantial fatty elements. Chemical shift can aid in the diagnosis of lipid-containing lesions of the brain (lipoma, dermoid, and teratoma) or the body (adrenal adenoma, focal fat within the liver, and angiomyolipoma). In addition, chemical shift can be implemented to accentuate visceral margins (e.g., kidney and liver).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts
  • Body Water
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Physical Phenomena
  • Physics
  • Protons


  • Lipids
  • Protons