Off-resonant RF irradiation in tissue indirectly lowers the water signal by saturation transfer processes: on the one hand, there are selective chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) effects originating from exchanging endogenous protons resonating a few parts per million from water; on the other hand, there is the broad semi-solid magnetization transfer (MT) originating from immobile protons associated with the tissue matrix with kilohertz linewidths. Recently it was shown that endogenous CEST contrasts can be strongly affected by the MT background, so corrections are needed to derive accurate estimates of CEST effects. Herein we show that a full analytical solution of the underlying Bloch-McConnell equations for both MT and CEST provides insights into their interaction and suggests a simple means to isolate their effects. The presented analytical solution, based on the eigenspace solution of the Bloch-McConnell equations, extends previous treatments by allowing arbitrary lineshapes for the semi-solid MT effects and simultaneously describing multiple CEST pools in the presence of a large MT pool for arbitrary irradiation. The structure of the model indicates that semi-solid MT and CEST effects basically add up inversely in determining the steady-state Z-spectrum, as previously shown for direct saturation and CEST effects. Implications for existing previous CEST analyses in the presence of a semi-solid MT are studied and discussed. It turns out that, to accurately quantify CEST contrast, a good reference Z-value, the observed longitudinal relaxation rate of water, and the semi-solid MT pool size fraction must all be known.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.