Magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopic imaging has become an important tool in clinical settings for noninvasively obtaining spatial and metabolic information on a molecular scale. Conventional spectroscopic imaging is acquired in the time domain, and its clinical application is limited by the long acquisition time, restricted spatial coverage, and complex suppression and reconstruction procedures. We introduce a fast MR spectroscopic imaging technique in the frequency domain, termed phase-cycled spectroscopic imaging (PCSI). PCSI uses a balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP) sequence with an ultra-low flip angle to achieve very high acquisition efficiency with a short repetition time. This approach enables faster frequency sweeping by changing the cycled RF phase and using flexible non-uniform sampling, and it greatly reduces the RF energy deposition in tissue. With its intrinsic water and fat suppression, PCSI more closely resembles routine clinical scans because it eliminates the suppression steps. We demonstrate that it is feasible to acquire PCSI spectra in a phantom and in humans and that PCSI provides an efficient spectroscopic imaging method, even for J-coupled metabolites. PCSI may enable spectroscopic imaging to play a larger role in the clinical assessment of the spatial tissue distribution of metabolites.
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