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Hepatic R2* is more strongly associated with proton density fat fraction than histologic liver iron scores in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

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The liver R2* value is widely used as a measure of liver iron but may be confounded by the presence of hepatic steatosis and other covariates.


To identify the most influential covariates for liver R2* values in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Study type

Retrospective analysis of prospectively acquired data.


Baseline data from 204 subjects enrolled in NAFLD/NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) treatment trials.

Field strength

1.5T and 3T; chemical-shift encoded multiecho gradient echo.


Correlation between liver proton density fat fraction and R2*; assessment for demographic, metabolic, laboratory, MRI-derived, and histological covariates of liver R2*.

Statistical tests

Pearson's and Spearman's correlations; univariate analysis; gradient boosting machines (GBM) multivariable machine-learning method.


Hepatic proton density fat fraction (PDFF) was the most strongly correlated covariate for R2* at both 1.5T (r = 0.652, P < 0.0001) and at 3T (r = 0.586, P < 0.0001). In the GBM analysis, hepatic PDFF was the most influential covariate for hepatic R2*, with relative influences (RIs) of 61.3% at 1.5T and 47.5% at 3T; less influential covariates had RIs of up to 11.5% at 1.5T and 16.7% at 3T. Nonhepatocellular iron was weakly associated with R2* at 3T only (RI 6.7%), and hepatocellular iron was not associated with R2* at either field strength.

Data conclusion

Hepatic PDFF is the most influential covariate for R2* at both 1.5T and 3T; nonhepatocellular iron deposition is weakly associated with liver R2* at 3T only.

Level of evidence

4 Technical Efficacy: Stage 2 J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2019;49:1456-1466.

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