Magnetic resonance imaging in idiopathic hemochromatosis

Eur J Haematol. 1991 Sep;47(3):174-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0609.1991.tb01551.x.


The therapeutic management of patients with idiopathic hemochromatosis (IH) requires an accurate estimate of hepatic iron overload in order to prevent tissue fibrosis and organ failure. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to estimate liver iron overload in 5 patients with IH and in 8 normal controls. Signal intensity ratio between liver and subcutaneous fat in T1-, proton- and T2-weighted images was significantly lower in IH when compared with normal controls, and increased gradually during treatment by phlebotomy. Mean serum ferritin at diagnosis was 755 micrograms/l (range: 648-900) in IH and 85 micrograms/l (range: 19-232) in normal controls. A high correlation (r = -0.93) was present between liver signal intensity ratio and serum ferritin; both changed in parallel during removal of iron by phlebotomy. MRI may provide a safe and accurate method of detecting iron overload in the precirrhotic phase of IH, obviating the need for liver biopsy. It may also be used to monitor treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Hemochromatosis / diagnosis
  • Hemochromatosis / metabolism
  • Hemochromatosis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Liver / anatomy & histology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Spleen / anatomy & histology
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Spleen / pathology*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron