Measurement of liver iron overload by magnetic induction using a planar gradiometer: Preliminary human results

R. Casañas, H. Scharfetter, A. Altes, A. Remacha, P. Sarda, J. Sierra, R. Merwa, K. Hollauss, J. Rosell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The measurement of hepatic iron overload is of particular interest in cases of hereditary hemochromatosis or in patients subject to periodic blood transfusion. The measurement of plasma ferritin provides an indirect estimate but the usefulness of this method is limited by many common clinical conditions (inflammation, infection, etc). Liver biopsy provides the most quantitative direct measurement of iron content in the liver but the risk of the procedure limits its acceptability. This work studies the feasibility of a magnetic induction (MI) low-cost system to measure liver iron overload. The excitation magnetic field (B0, frequency: 28 kHz) was produced by a coil, the perturbation produced by the object (ΔB) was detected using a planar gradiometer. We measured ten patients and seven volunteers in supine and prone positions. Each subject was moved in a plane parallel to the gradiometer several times to estimate measurement repeatability. The real and imaginary parts of ΔB/B0 were measured. Plastic tanks filled with water, saline and ferric solutions were measured for calibration purposes. We used a finite element model to evaluate the experimental results. To estimate the iron content we used the ratio between the maximum values for real and imaginary parts of ΔB/B0 and the area formed by the Nyquist plot divided by the maximum imaginary part. Measurements in humans showed that the contribution of the permittivity is stronger than the contribution of the permeability produced by iron stores in the liver. Defined iron estimators show a limited correlation with expected iron content in patients (R ≤ 0.56). A more precise control of geometry and position of the subjects and measurements at multiple frequencies would improve the method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hepatic iron
  • Magnetic induction
  • Susceptibility measurements
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Magnetics/instrumentation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Hemochromatosis/diagnosis
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Liver


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