Diffusion-weighted imaging in normal fetal brain maturation

Eur Radiol. 2007 Sep;17(9):2422-9. doi: 10.1007/s00330-007-0634-x. Epub 2007 Apr 3.


Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) provides information about tissue maturation not seen on conventional magnetic resonance imaging. The aim of this study is to analyze the evolution over time of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of normal fetal brain in utero. DWI was performed on 78 fetuses, ranging from 23 to 37 gestational weeks (GW). All children showed at follow-up a normal neurological evaluation. ADC values were obtained in the deep white matter (DWM) of the centrum semiovale, the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobe, in the cerebellar hemisphere, the brainstem, the basal ganglia (BG) and the thalamus. Mean ADC values in supratentorial DWM areas (1.68 +/- 0.05 mm(2)/s) were higher compared with the cerebellar hemisphere (1.25 +/- 0.06 mm(2)/s) and lowest in the pons (1.11 +/- 0.05 mm(2)/s). Thalamus and BG showed intermediate values (1.25 +/- 0.04 mm(2)/s). Brainstem, cerebellar hemisphere and thalamus showed a linear negative correlation with gestational age. Supratentorial areas revealed an increase in ADC values, followed by a decrease after the 30th GW. This study provides a normative data set that allows insights in the normal fetal brain maturation in utero, which has not yet been observed in previous studies on premature babies.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies