Four-dimensional ultrasonography of the fetal heart with spatiotemporal image correlation

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Dec;189(6):1792-802. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(03)00913-x.


Objective: This study was undertaken to describe a new technique for the examination of the fetal heart using four-dimensional ultrasonography with spatiotemporal image correlation (STIC).

Study design: Volume data sets of the fetal heart were acquired with a new cardiac gating technique (STIC), which uses automated transverse and longitudinal sweeps of the anterior chest wall. These volumes were obtained from 69 fetuses: 35 normal, 16 with congenital anomalies not affecting the cardiovascular system, and 18 with cardiac abnormalities. Dynamic multiplanar slicing and surface rendering of cardiac structures were performed. To illustrate the STIC technique, two representative volumes from a normal fetus were compared with volumes obtained from fetuses with the following congenital heart anomalies: atrioventricular septal defect, tricuspid stenosis, tricuspid atresia, and interrupted inferior vena cava with abnormal venous drainage.

Results: Volume datasets obtained with a transverse sweep were utilized to demonstrate the cardiac chambers, moderator band, interatrial and interventricular septae, atrioventricular valves, pulmonary veins, and outflow tracts. With the use of a reference dot to navigate the four-chamber view, intracardiac structures could be simultaneously studied in three orthogonal planes. The same volume dataset was used for surface rendering of the atrioventricular valves. The aortic and ductal arches were best visualized when the original plane of acquisition was sagittal. Volumes could be interactively manipulated to simultaneously visualize both outflow tracts, in addition to the aortic and ductal arches. Novel views of specific structures were generated. For example, the location and extent of a ventricular septal defect was imaged in a sagittal view of the interventricular septum. Furthermore, surface-rendered images of the atrioventricular valves were employed to distinguish between normal and pathologic conditions. Representative video clips were posted on the Journal's Web site to demonstrate the diagnostic capabilities of this new technique.

Conclusion: Dynamic multiplanar slicing and surface rendering of the fetal heart are feasible with STIC technology. One good quality volume dataset, obtained from a transverse sweep, can be used to examine the four-chamber view and the outflow tracts. This novel method may assist in the evaluation of fetal cardiac anatomy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Echocardiography, Four-Dimensional / methods*
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods