Dixon method

Last revised by Joachim Feger on 1 Jun 2024

The Dixon method, also known as the Dixon technique, is an MRI sequence based on chemical shift imaging and designed to achieve uniform fat suppression. It has been gaining popularity as it has some advantages over other fat suppression techniques, namely:

  • suppression of fat signal is more uniform and less affected by artifacts than many other techniques 3

  • can be combined with a variety of sequence types (e.g. spin echo, gradient echo) 3

  • can be combined with a variety of weightings (e.g. T1, T2, and proton density) 3

  • provides images with and without fat suppression from a single acquisition

  • not only shows the presence of microscopic fat but can also quantify the amount of fat 3


Physical principles

The Dixon technique exploits the fact that water and fat molecules precess at different rates. As such, over time, they will alternate between being in-phase and opposed-phase. Acquiring both in-phase and opposed-phase images simultaneously allows the images to be combined mathematically in two ways which result in a total of four sequences 1

  1. in-phase =  (water + fat)

  2. opposed-phase = (water - fat) 

  3. fat only =  in-phase - opposed phase = (water + fat) - (water - fat) 

  4. water only = in-phase + opposed phase = (water + fat) + (water - fat) 

The water-only image can be used as a fat-suppressed image. 

The fat-only image can then be combined with other sequences of various weightings to give fat suppression. It can also be used for quantification in certain scenarios. 

One limitation of this method is that of fat-water swapping artifact which occurs in cases of magnetic field inhomogeneity.

History and etymology

The sequence was first described by the American physicist William Thomas Dixon (1945-2022) 4 in 1984 2. Unfortunately due to the limitations of MRI technology at that time, the sequence was prone to significant artifacts and was not implemented widely until two decades later when many refinements of the technique were created. Dixon became a Fellow of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine in 2007 and was awarded a gold medal in 2013 4.

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