MRI Scanning Can Show Abnormalities In Unborn Babies In Great Detail: Study

The study also noted that MRI is a very safe procedure for pregnant women and their babies.

According to a stdty, published in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, MRI scanning can more precisely define and detect malformations in unborn babies in great detail.

The study led by King’s College London with Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital and UCL, revealed that MRI scanning can define and detect head, neck, thoracic, abdominal and spinal malformations, including their effect on surrounding structures.

The study also noted that MRI is a very safe procedure for pregnant women and their babies.

The study is important for both to clinicians caring for babies before they are born and for teams planning care of the baby after delivery.

Lead researcher, Professor Mary Rutherford, from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences said ultrasound remains the gold standard for fetal screening and indeed is complementary to these optimised MRI approaches for evaluating abnormalities of the fetal body.

“Until now, ultrasound has been the modality of choice to diagnose those anomalies. However, sometimes the ability of ultrasound to define the most detailed anatomy is limited. MRI scanning offers the potential to more precisely define malformations that could help support clinicians in their planning of care and counselling of parents”.

Recent research has concentrated on correcting for fetal movement in fetal brain MRI and, more recently, for imaging the fetal heart. However, there is an increasing demand to assess the entire fetus with MRI and research from King’s College London School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, have recently been able to develop a post-acquisition pipeline to motion correct and volume reconstruct images of the whole fetal body.

“Until now, ultrasound has been the modality of choice to diagnose those anomalies. However, sometimes the ability of ultrasound to define the most detailed anatomy is limited. MRI scanning offers the potential to more precisely define malformations that could help support clinicians in their planning of care and counselling of parents”.

MRI is commonly used in the classification of fetal brain anomalies. Although its use in fetal body anomalies is less widely adopted, advances have led to the validation of its role in the antenatal investigation of several conditions including the investigation of fetuses with spina bifida: imaging of the fetal brain along with the spinal cord is an important factor in evaluating which patients could benefit from fetal surgery.

For fetal neck masses, MRI provides a clear advantage over conventional ultrasound for assessing tumour extension and giving a 3D visualisation of the tumour’s relation to the airway.

MRI may also be better than ultrasound for distinguishing between normal and abnormal lung tissue, and in making other diagnoses such as diaphragmatic hernia—particularly in late gestation, when doing so with ultrasound is challenging.

New approaches to imaging the fetal body with MRI allow both motion correction of the fetal images and volume reconstructions of body organs and defects. Researchers say this improves visualisation and therefore detection and characterisation of abnormalities.

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