Development and applications of in vivo clinical magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 1996;65(1-2):45-81. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6107(96)00006-5.


4.1 CURRENT STATUS. While an extensive clinical literature of MRS of muscle, brain, heart and liver has been achieved, the MRS technique is not considered essential for routine diagnosis because it is inherently insensitive and metabolic changes tend to be small. However, MRS techniques have proven to be of considerable value for prognosis in some circumstances, notably for predicting outcome following hypoxic-ischaemic injury in the newborn and also in predicting graft viability following organ transplantation. The chemical specificity of MRS has been illustrated, and exploiting the non-invasive nature of the technique, metabolic fingerprinting of pathophysiological processes throughout the natural history of a wide variety of diseases is now being accomplished. Particularly exciting are the applications of 13C MRS for measuring hepatic and muscle glycogen levels, for example in diabetics, and the use of hepatic 31P MRS for assessing liver function in cirrhosis. Other areas of excitement are the applications of 1H MRS in assessing neuronal function in epilepsy and stroke, and for measuring the evolution of lactate in stroke and hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy. Emphasis on technique development continues, and applications still tend to be technology-led. The availability of routine clinical MRI systems with spectroscopy capabilities has given MRS studies wider applicability. The recent improvements in spatial resolution have been impressive and the technique is slowly becoming more quantitative. 4.2. FUTURE PERSPECTIVES. Given the flexibility of clinical magnetic resonance techniques, particularly magnetic resonance imaging, it is likely that MRI will be the diagnostic tool of choice in a wider range of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, neurodegenerative conditions, sports injuries and in staging malignancies. Since proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy packages have become a routine addition to many MRI systems, it is feasible to select the MRI sequences of most value in highlighting anatomical and pathological abnormalities and to incorporate specifically selected MRS sequences to emphasize biochemical differences. Improvements in technical methodologies are central to further developments. For example, use of internal coils, such as implantable or endoscopic coils, will enable small regions of tissue to be studied in considerable detail, which may otherwise be inaccessible to measurement. Chemical MRS studies have benefited from the use of higher magnetic fields, and the same may be expected for clinical MRS studies. Whole-body magnets up to 4 T have been used in a few centres, and certainly 3 T systems are becoming more widely available with the recent tremendous interest in functional imaging. Certainly, better control of artefacts can be expected; for example, improved definition of spectral changes due to voluntary or involuntary movements. Wider use of proton decoupling methods will improve the specificity of the spectra, by allowing definitive assignments of overlapping resonances, as well as the sensitivity. Comparing PET and MRS studies, it is becoming increasingly obvious that both will be required in parallel to explore parameters of brain metabolism and function. The ability to measure 13C MR signals in the brain has been demonstrated, which allows measurements of glutamate and glucose turnover. MRS measurements have the advantage of not requiring a radioactive isotope, as well as being insensitive to activity-related changes in regional cerebral blood flow. Also the study of cerebral glucose metabolism by MRS is very promising, allowing a resolution and sensitivity comparable to PET. A combination of MRS and PET studies will allow the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders to be better understood. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fluorine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / chemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Organ Transplantation / physiology
  • Phosphorus / chemistry


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Phosphorus
  • Fluorine
  • Hydrogen