A new method for measuring T1 based on a measurement of the ratio, R, of the steady-state partially saturated NMR signals acquired at two fixed low flip angles (<90°) and a single sequence-repetition period, TR, is presented, The flip angles are chosen to optimize both the signal-to-noise ratio per unit time relative to the best possible Ernst-angle performance and the sensitivity with which a measurement of R can resolve differences in T1. A flip-angle pair at of around (60°, 15°) yields 70-79% of the maximum achievable Ernst-angle signal-to-noise ratio and a near-linear dependence of R on TR/T1 with gradient of about 2:1 over the range 0.1 ≤ TR/T1 ≤ 1. Errors in hip-angle and excitation-field (B1) inhomogeneity result in roughly proportionate errors in the apparent T1. The method is best implemented with adiabatic low-angle pulses such as B1-independent rotation (BIR-4) or BIR-4 phase-cycled (BIRP) pulses, which permit measurements with surface coils. Experimental validation was obtained at 2 T by comparison of unlocalized inversion-recovery and dual-angle proton (1H) and phosphorus (31P) measurements from vials containing doped water with 0.04 ≤ T1 ≤ 2.8 s and from the metabolites in the calf muscles of eight human volunteers. Calf muscle values of 6 ± 0.5 s for phosphocreatine and around 3.7 ± 0.8 s for the adenosine triphosphates (ATP) were in good agreement with inversion-recovery T1 values and values from the literature. Use of the dual-angle method accelerated T1 measurement time by about fivefold over inversion recovery. The dual-angle method was implemented in a one-dimensional localized surface-coil 31P spectroscopy sequence, producing consistent T1 measurements from phantoms, the calf muscle, and the human liver. 31P T1 values of ATP in the livers of six volunteers were about 0.5 ± 0.1 to 0.6 ± 0.2 s: the total exam times were about 35 minutes per subject. The method is ideally suited to low-sensitivity and/or low-concentration moieties, such as in 31P NMR in vivo, where study-time limitations are critical, and for rapid 1H T1 imaging.
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