Purpose: To plot normal fetal lung volume (FLV) obtained with fast spin-echo magnetic resonance (MR) images against gestational age; to investigate the correlation between lung growth and fetal presentation, sex, and ultrasonographic (US) biometric measurements; and to investigate its potential application in fetuses with thoracoabdominal malformations.
Materials and methods: In a prospective multicenter study, 336 fetuses suspected of having central nervous system disorders underwent fast spin-echo T2-weighted lung MR imaging. Data obtained at 21-38 weeks gestation in 215 fetuses without thoracoabdominal malformations and with normal US biometric findings were selected for an FLV normative curve. FLV measurements obtained at pathologic examination with an immersion method were compared with MR FLV measurements in 11 fetuses. MR FLV values in 16 fetuses with thoracoabdominal malformations were compared with the normative curve.
Results: Normal FLV increased with gestational age as a power curve; the spread of values increased with age. Interobserver correlation was excellent (R(2) = 0.96). FLV measurements at MR imaging were 0.90 times those at pathologic examination. A constant ratio (0.78) between FLV on the left and right sides was observed. No significant difference in FLV was observed between fetal presentations. Normal FLV was observed in all fetuses with cystic adenomatoid malformations and in four of six with oligohydramnios. Lowest FLV values were observed in fetuses with diaphragmatic hernia.
Conclusion: In fetuses with normal lungs, FLV distribution against gestational age is easily assessed in utero with fast spin-echo T2-weighted MR imaging. These preliminary findings illustrate the potential for comparing FLV measurements in fetuses at risk of lung hypoplasia with normative values.