Liver Fat Can Be Effectively Monitored by MRI

  • A promising noninvasive technique called CSE-MRI is suggested by a new study as a secure way to monitor liver fat content in obese people.
  • Through the creation of a proton density fat fraction (PDFF), fat liver can be measured before and after bariatric surgery.
  • MRI readings have shown a rapid reduction in liver fat content and decreased BMI post- surgery.

For people who go through weight loss treatments for obesity, MRI is recommended by a newly published study as a safe and noninvasive method to keep track of liver fat levels.

While bariatric surgical procedures are proven to be effective interventions for weight loss among obese people, little is known about the connections between weight loss and reduced liver fat content. Not only is it difficult to assess liver fat noninvasively, but surgical biopsy methods also make monitoring liver changes unobtainable over time.

But through a promising noninvasive option known as quantitative chemical shift-encoded MRI (CSE-MRI) that created a measurement of liver fat in percentage called a proton density fat fraction (PDFF), the study was able to gauge liver fat before and after bariatric surgery.

The CSE-MRI of fifty obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery for weight loss were examined by study co-author Dr. B. Dustin Pooler and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wis. Prior to surgery, the patients were subjected to a low-calorie diet. CSE-MRI was performed twice before surgery and several times in the year after surgery. Changes in liver fat based on body mass index (BMI), weight and waist circumference determined by PDFF were all compared.

Results in six to 10 months after surgery showed a decrease in PDFF from 18 to 5 percent, normal range of which is 5 percent or less. Average BMI was also reduced from 45 to 34.5. An approximate 5 months is what it takes for PDFF to normalize. Only the initial PDFF is the only strong indicator for both liver fat loss and time to normalization.

“The results showed a rapid early phase of improvements in liver fat, followed by a phase of continued improvements at a slower pace,” said Dr. Pooler. He also added that among the patients with overall BMI improvements, changes already began when patients were placed on a low-calorie diet, and even occurred in advance.

Other potential roles for CSE-MRI have been suggested in the management of obese individuals with fatty livers.  Due to the strong connection between lowered liver fat and pre-treatment liver fat content, PDFF indicators could help in the selection of candidates for bariatric surgery. Additionally, independently monitoring weight loss could be useful in detecting liver fat post bariatric surgery. Regardless of weight or weight loss, the greatest potential of CSE-MRI would benefit patients with fatty livers.

“We’ve done the validation and the next step is to make people and physicians aware that this is an option for them,” said Dr. Pooler.

The study is published in the journal Radiology.

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