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Renal fat fraction and diffusion tensor imaging in patients with early-stage diabetic nephropathy

  • Magnetic Resonance
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European Radiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



To investigate the renal fat fraction and water molecular diffusion features in patients with early-stage DN using Dixon imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).


Sixty-one type 2 diabetics (normoalbuminuria: n = 40; microalbuminuria: n = 21) and 34 non-diabetic volunteers were included. All participants received three-point Dixon imaging and DTI using a 3.0-T magnetic resonance imager. The fat fraction [FF] and DTI features [fractional anisotropy (FA), apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), tract counts and length from DTI tractography] were collected. All image features were compared between cohorts using one-way ANOVA with Bonferroni post-hoc analysis.


Renal FF in the microalbuminuric group was significantly higher than in the normoalbuminuric and control groups (5.6% ± 1.3%, 4.7% ± 1.1% and 4.3% ± 0.5%, respectively; p < 0.001). Medullary FA in the microalbuminuric group was the lowest (0.31 ± 0.06) in all cohorts. The tract counts and length in the renal medulla were significantly lower in the microalbuminuric group than in the other two groups.


Dixon imaging and DTI are able to detect renal lipid deposition and water molecule diffusion abnormalities in patients with early-stage DN. Both techniques have the potential to noninvasively evaluate early renal impairment in type 2 diabetes.

Key points

• Dixon imaging demonstrated renal fat deposition in early-stage DN;

• Renal fractional anisotropy decreased in patients with early-stage DN;

• Renal tractography demonstrated reduced track counts and length in early-stage DN.

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Apparent Diffusion Coefficient


Body Mass Index


Diabetic Nephropathy


Diffusion Tensor Imaging


Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate


Fractional Anisotropy


Fat Fraction


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging


Field of View


Region of Interest


Echo Time


Repetition Time


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This research was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (NSFC, no. 81525014), the Jiangsu Provincial Special Program of Medical Science (BL2013029) and the Key Research and Development Program of Jiangsu Province (BE2016782).

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Correspondence to Shenghong Ju.

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The scientific guarantor of this publication is Shenghong Ju.

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The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies, whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article.

Statistics and biometry

No complex statistical methods were necessary for this paper.

Informed consent

Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects (patients) in this study.

Ethical approval

Institutional Review Board approval was obtained.


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Wang, YC., Feng, Y., Lu, CQ. et al. Renal fat fraction and diffusion tensor imaging in patients with early-stage diabetic nephropathy. Eur Radiol 28, 3326–3334 (2018).

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