A quantitative theory is proposed for the nonexponential NMR proton signal decay observed in liver with iron overload or superparamagnetic iron oxide particles. This effect occurs for Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) sequences and is argued to be a direct consequence of the strong magnetic field inhomogeneities generated by the iron, rather than being due to tissue compartments. An approximate mathematical form is given for the signal decay, which is fit to experimental data for samples of rat liver with iron oxide particles, for samples of marmoset liver with hemosiderosis, and for in vivo human liver with hereditary hemochromatosis. The fitting parameters obtained are consistent with the pattern of iron deposition determined from histology. For the case of hereditary hemochromatosis, a good correlation is found between a parameter characterizing the nonexponential decay and the iron concentration. Implications for practical MR quantification of hepatic iron are discussed.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.