Background: Liver iron content (LIC) assessment by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is validated but not standardized. In a single center, we tried to assess the accuracy of a specific, simple MRI procedure adapted to high LIC from a well-established simple and routine procedure known to quantify LIC.
Methods: In 27 cases of monthly transfused patients, we compared biochemical values of LIC assessed on liver biopsy specimens and results obtained by two signal intensity ratio of gradient echo imaging (R2*) MRI protocols. The first was Gandon's routine procedure previously validated in liver disease and the second, our own method, was an addition of a gradient echo sequence specifically adapted to high LIC encountered in hematology practice.
Results: Twenty-seven liver biopsies were performed in 18 adult patients (myelodysplastic syndrome = 5, beta-thalassemia = 13). LIC by biopsy ranged from 1.4 to 54 mg/g liver dry weight (mg/g dw) (median 9.4 mg/g dw). Correlation between LIC by biopsy and by MRI with Gandon's procedure was good (R = 0.80) in patients with LIC falling within the range reported by Gandon. By contrast, a weak correlation was demonstrated (R = 0.52) in patients with high LIC (above 11.2 mg/g dw). With our sequences, the correlation was good both in the entire group of patients (R = 0.83) and in patients with LIC above 11.2 mg/g dw (R = 0.85).
Conclusion: Our results suggest that the addition of a specific shorter-gradient echo sequence to a very simple, fast technique produces an accurate estimation of LIC in post-transfusional iron overload.