MRI Spectroscopy

MR Spectroscopy

By Jeffrey M. Pollock MD

How it works

MR Spectroscopy uses the chemical makeup of a lesion to distinguish it from other possibilities in a differential diagnosis. Each disease process causes different chemical changes in the brain that MRI spectroscopy can detect and identify.  MRI spectroscopy can be done in a single point (single voxel) or over a region (multi-voxel). The multi-voxel technique allows the MRI scanner to make an image from the spectroscopy data. The radiologist will select the areas of interest during the examination.


Our MRI suite uses the latest Phillips 3.0 tesla magnets coupled with a state of the art Phillips MR Spectroscopy software package. Processing is performed by the technologist as soon as the scan is completed and images are available for immediate interpretation.


MRI spectroscopy is most beneficial to patients with suspected tumors or infections. MR spectroscopy can distinguish tumors and infections from different pathologies that can mimic a tumor and it can estimate how malignant a tumor is before surgery. Additionally spectroscopy can identify the regions of the mass that will give the highest yield at surgical biopsy. 

MR Spectroscopy


Some intracranial infections can mimic brain tumors. The MR spectroscopy of an infection is very different from a tumor and the two processes can be distinguished. 


The tumor grade can be estimated and possible regions of tumor necrosis can be identified. By knowing the possible grade of the tumor before surgery, the surgeon has the information needed to make the appropriate resection or biopsy. Spectroscopy can also guide the biopsy to the region of the tumor with the most pathology to give the most accurate tumor grade which can affect therapy after resection.

Exam Preparation

The technologist will interview you prior to scan to make sure you have no contraindications to being in the MRI scanner. Patients with braces or other metal near the head or neck may not be suitable for MRI spectroscopy because of the artifacts the metal can cause.

What to expect

DSC perfusion alone takes approximately 5 minutes of scanner time. It is very important to remain very still during this portion of the examination. The study is done in conjunction with routine anatomic imaging.