Since the liver is a central organ of digestive and reticuloendothelial function, it is heavily involved in the deposition and distribution of iron. Accumulated iron in the liver originates both from intesti-nally absorbed dietary iron and particulate iron from damaged erythrocytes. Normally, accumulated iron in the liver is metabolized and delivered to the bone marrow in order to be used for red blood cell production. However, several diseases which increase the uptake of intestinal iron or the liberation of physiologically bound iron may lead to an excessive accumulation of iron in the liver.
As iron reduces the T2 and T2* relaxation times significantly, MRI is a sensitive and specific imaging modality for the depiction of iron overload and its anatomical distribution. The most frequent diseases that lead to an increased accumulation of iron in the liver are hemochromatosis, siderosis (due to transfusional iron overload), he-molysis and cirrhosis. In addition to an examination of the liver, whole body MRI may be helpful to evaluate the underlying disease by revealing the pattern of increased iron accumulation in extra-hepatic tissues.
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