Noninvasive assessment of hepatic triglyceride content in humans with 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

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Abstract

Hepatic lipid content was assessed noninvasively in 15 patients with hepatic steatosis by 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and compared in a double-blind fashion with histological grading and morphometric quantitation of fat in liver biopsies taken within 2 weeks of the study. The lipid content in the liver biopsies was expressed as the volume fraction of total parenchyma occupied by fat. Hepatic triglyceride content was determined by comparing the 13C NMR signal intensity in vivo with the signal intensity obtained from a lipid phantom of known concentrations. There was an approximately 30-fold increase in the 13C NMR signals of the saturated carbons (methyl/methylene [CH2]n) region of hepatic triglycerides from patients with grade 4 steatosis compared with those with grade 0, yielding a good dynamic range for measuring hepatic triglyceride content. The correlation coefficient between the morphometric and 13C NMR techniques was 0.89 (P < .01). These studies demonstrate that 13C NMR spectroscopy can be used to noninvasively assess hepatic triglyceride content in humans. This method may be clinically useful for diagnosis and follow-up of patients with hepatic steatosis.

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