Fourteen patients with liver cirrhosis of differing severity participated in a one-dimensional chemical shift imaging 31P MRS study of the liver. Patients were divided into two groups according to the severity of their liver disease using Child's classification and the aminopyrine breath test (AB test). Seven normal volunteers without liver disease acted as controls. The phosphomonester (PME) peak in normal subjects was 4.77% (95% confidence interval, CI: 4.11-5.42) of total phosphorus. The PME peak was significantly elevated in both mild cirrhosis [5.80% (95% CI: 5.46-6.14), p = 0.0051, vs normal subjects] and severe cirrhosis [9.64% (95% CI: 8.71-10.57), p = 0.0002, vs normal subjects and p = 0.001, vs mild cirrhosis]. There was a significant negative linear correlation (r = 0.88, p < 0.01) of PME with the percentage dose of 14CO2 excreted over 2 h in the AB test. pH values in patients with mild cirrhosis [7.45 (95% CI: 7.35-7.55)] but not severe cirrhosis [7.36 (95% CI: 7.25-7.47)] were significantly elevated (p = 0.04) compared to normal subjects [7.29 (95% CI: 7.17-7.41)]. Comparison of the peak area of PME at TR = 0.5 s against that using TR = 5.0 s in cirrhotic liver suggested no reduction in T1 of phosphorus metabolites in cirrhosis. A relationship between the severity of liver cirrhosis and a relative increase in PME was demonstrated and this was not due to a reduction of T1. This study highlights the clinical potential of 31P MRS as a non-invasive means of assessing the severity of liver cirrhosis.