Object: Referencing metabolite intensities to the tissue water intensity is commonly applied to determine metabolite concentrations from in vivo (1)H-MRS brain data. However, since the water concentration and relaxation properties differ between grey matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the volume fractions of these compartments have to be considered in MRS voxels.
Materials and methods: The impact of partial volume correction was validated by phantom measurements in voxels containing mixtures of solutions with different NAA and water concentrations as well as by analyzing in vivo (1)H-MRS brain data acquired with various voxel compositions.
Results: Phantom measurements indicated substantial underestimation of NAA concentrations when assuming homogeneously composed voxels, especially for voxels containing solution, which simulated CSF (error: ≤ 92%). This bias was substantially reduced by taking into account voxel composition (error: ≤ 10%). In the in vivo study, tissue correction reduced the overall variation of quantified metabolites by up to 35% and revealed the expected metabolic differences between various brain tissues.
Conclusions: Tissue composition affects extraction of metabolite concentrations and may cause misinterpretations when comparing measurements performed with different voxel sizes. This variation can be reduced by considering the different tissue types by means of combined analysis of spectroscopic and imaging data.