Blood oxygen saturation (SO(2)) is a promising parameter for the assessment of brain tissue viability in numerous pathologies. Quantitative blood oxygenation level-dependent (qBOLD)-like approaches allow the estimation of SO(2) by modelling the contribution of deoxyhaemoglobin to the MR signal decay. These methods require a high signal-to-noise ratio to obtain accurate maps through fitting procedures. In this article, we present a version of the qBOLD method at long TE taking into account separate estimates of T(2), total blood volume fraction (BV(f)) and magnetic field inhomogeneities. Our approach was applied to the brains of 13 healthy rats under normoxia, hyperoxia and hypoxia. MR estimates of local SO(2) (MR_LSO(2)) were compared with measurements obtained from blood gas analysis. A very good correlation (R(2) = 0.89) was found between brain MR_LSO(2) and sagittal sinus SO(2). Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.