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Keywords:

  • Adipose tissue;
  • body fat quantification;
  • MRI;
  • organ fat

Summary

As the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, rapid and accurate tools for assessing abdominal body and organ fat quantity and distribution are critically needed to assist researchers investigating therapeutic and preventive measures against obesity and its comorbidities. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most promising modality to address such need. It is non-invasive, utilizes no ionizing radiation, provides unmatched 3-D visualization, is repeatable, and is applicable to subject cohorts of all ages. This article is aimed to provide the reader with an overview of current and state-of-the-art techniques in MRI and associated image analysis methods for fat quantification. The principles underlying traditional approaches such as T1-weighted imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy as well as more modern chemical-shift imaging techniques are discussed and compared. The benefits of contiguous 3-D acquisitions over 2-D multislice approaches are highlighted. Typical post-processing procedures for extracting adipose tissue depot volumes and percent organ fat content from abdominal MRI data sets are explained. Furthermore, the advantages and disadvantages of each MRI approach with respect to imaging parameters, spatial resolution, subject motion, scan time and appropriate fat quantitative endpoints are also provided. Practical considerations in implementing these methods are also presented.