Objective: We examined the capability of ultrafast single-shot fast spin-echo imaging to assess different fetal organ systems compared with prenatal sonography, using autopsy or postpartum imaging as a standard of reference.
Subjects and methods: Thirty women with complicated pregnancies (mean age of gestation, 190 +/- 54 days) underwent T2-weighted ultrafast MR imaging. MR images were analyzed with regard to diagnostic confidence in assessing abnormalities of fetal organ systems, and data were correlated with postpartum findings or necropsy. Results were compared with those of prenatal sonography.
Results: Using receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, diagnostic confidence of MR imaging was best for assessing the brain (area under the curve [Az] = 0.96) and spinal canal (Az = 1.0), uteroplacental unit (Az = 0.93), and lungs (Az = 0.91). Results for the heart (Az = 0.63) and extremities (Az = 0.77) were significantly lower than that of other organs (p < 0.001). Diagnostic accuracy increased with gestational age. No statistically significant difference between sonography and MR imaging was found for the detection of abnormality in any organ system. In three fetuses, MR imaging was superior to sonography in characterizing cerebral abnormalities. MR imaging was inferior to sonography in characterizing abnormalities of the heart and extremities.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that ultrafast MR imaging can be used for in vivo fetal imaging, especially in assessing cerebral abnormalities. However, MR imaging should be restricted to situations in which sonographic findings are ambiguous or impaired.