Quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) is a recently developed MRI technique for quantifying the spatial distribution of magnetic susceptibility within biological tissues. It first uses the frequency shift in the MRI signal to map the magnetic field profile within the tissue. The resulting field map is then used to determine the spatial distribution of the underlying magnetic susceptibility by solving an inverse problem. The solution is achieved by deconvolving the field map with a dipole field, under the assumption that the magnetic field is a result of the superposition of the dipole fields generated by all voxels and that each voxel has its unique magnetic susceptibility. QSM provides improved contrast to noise ratio for certain tissues and structures compared to its magnitude counterpart. More importantly, magnetic susceptibility is a direct reflection of the molecular composition and cellular architecture of the tissue. Consequently, by quantifying magnetic susceptibility, QSM is becoming a quantitative imaging approach for characterizing normal and pathological tissue properties. This article reviews the mechanism generating susceptibility contrast within tissues and some associated applications.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Parkinson's disease; brain; iron; multiple sclerosis; myelin; quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM); susceptibility tensor imaging (STI).