The measurement of liver fat from single-energy quantitative computed tomography scans

Xiaoguang Cheng, Glen M. Blake*, J. Keenan Brown, Zhe Guo, Jun Zhou, Fengzhe Wang, Liqiang Yang, Xiaohong Wang, Li Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Studies of soft tissue composition using computed tomography (CT) scans are often semi-quantitative and based on Hounsfield units (HU) measurements that have not been calibrated with a quantitative CT (QCT) phantom. We describe a study to establish the water (H2O) and dipotassium hydrogen phosphate (K2HPO4) basis set equivalent densities of fat and fat-free liver tissue. With this information liver fat can be accurately measured from any abdominal CT scan calibrated with a suitable phantom. Methods: Liver fat content was measured by comparing single-energy QCT (SEQCT) HU measurements of the liver with predicted HU values for fat and fat-free liver tissue calculated from their H2O and K2HPO4 equivalent densities and calibration data from a QCT phantom. The equivalent densities of fat were derived from a listing of its constituent fatty acids, and those of fat-free liver tissue from a dual-energy QCT (DEQCT) study performed in 14 healthy Chinese subjects. This information was used to calculate liver fat from abdominal SEQCT scans performed in a further 541 healthy Chinese subjects (mean age 62 years; range, 31-95 years) enrolled in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study. Results: The equivalent densities of fat were 941.75 mg/cm3 H2O and-43.72 mg/cm3 K2HPO4, and for fat-free liver tissue 1,040.13 mg/cm3 H2O and 21.34 mg/cm3 K2HPO4. Liver fat in the 14 subjects in the DEQCT study varied from 0-17.9% [median: 4.5%; interquartile range (IQR): 3.0-7.9%]. Liver fat in the 541 PURE study subjects varied from-0.3-29.9% (median: 4.9%; IQR: 3.4-6.9%). Conclusions: We have established H2O and K2HPO4 equivalent densities for fat and fat-free liver tissue that allow a measurement of liver fat to be obtained from any abdominal CT scan acquired with a QCT phantom. Although radiation dose considerations preclude the routine use of QCT to measure liver fat, the method described here facilitates its measurement in patients having CT scans performed for other purposes. Further studies comparing the results with magnetic resonance (MR) measurements of liver fat are required to validate the method as a useful clinical tool.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)281-291
    Number of pages11
    JournalQuantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Dual-energy quantitative computed tomography (DEQCT)
    • Liver fat measurement
    • Single-energy quantitative computed tomography (SEQCT)
    • Soft tissue composition


    Dive into the research topics of 'The measurement of liver fat from single-energy quantitative computed tomography scans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this