Central nervous system abnormalities assessed with prenatal magnetic resonance imaging

Obstet Gynecol. 1999 Dec;94(6):1011-9. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(99)00455-x.


Objective: To determine the frequency at which magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides additional information in fetuses with suspected central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities on ultrasound.

Methods: Between May 1, 1996, and March 26, 1999, 83 women with 90 fetuses (including seven sets of live twins) had 91 ultrasonographic and MRI examinations of the fetal CNS. Eight women were studied twice, one for two different indications. If referrals came from outside our institution, a confirmatory sonogram was obtained. Indications for examination were ventriculomegaly (n = 25), suspected neural tube defect (n = 16), arachnoid cyst (n = 12), large cisterna magna (n = 11), and miscellaneous indications (n = 20).

Results: Magnetic resonance imaging findings led to changed diagnoses in 26 (40%) of 66 fetuses with abnormal confirmatory sonograms. Magnetic resonance imaging findings not found by ultrasound included partial or complete agenesis of the corpus callosum (n = 11), porencephaly (n = 6), hemorrhage (n = 5), tethered cord (n = 3), cortical gyral abnormality (n = 2), cortical cleft (n = 2), midbrain abnormality (n = 2), and partial or complete agenesis of the septi pellucidi (n = 3), as well as holoprosencephaly, cerebellar hypoplasia, subependymal and cortical tubers, vascular malformation, and vermian cysts (one case each). Abnormalities better delineated by MRI than ultrasound included three cephaloceles, a dural arteriovenous malformation, one distal sacral neural tube defect, and the mass effect of three arachnoid cysts. That information was used to alter patient counseling and at times management.

Conclusion: When a CNS anomaly is detected by sonography or suspected on ultrasound, MRI findings might lead to altered diagnosis and patient counseling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / abnormalities*
  • Diseases in Twins / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis* / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal