Purpose: To determine the reliability and variations of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values in normal fetuses. Materials and methods. Retrospective study (2007-2008) on 22 normal fetal MR examinations, performed between 30 and 34 of gestation, using a routine protocol (T1W and T2W images in 3 planes, b=1,000 diffusion-weighted imaging) without sedation. ADC values were measured by placing 3 adjacent regions of interest (ROI) including a centrally located ROI over the right frontal and occipital white matter (6 ROI).
Statistical analysis: reproducibility of adjacent ADC values (intraclass correlation coefficient: ICC) and comparison between frontal and occipital ADC values (Wilcoxon).
Results: The mean ADC value was 1.78 mm(2)/s for the frontal white matter (+ or - 0.10) and 1.66 mm(2)/s for the occipital white matter (+ or - 0.12) with excellent reproducibility (ICC=0.91 in the frontal lobe) and good reproducibility for adjacent measurements (ICC=0.7). A linear inverse correlation existed between ADC values and gestational age in the occipital lobes, and a significant fronto-occipital gradient existed after 32 weeks of gestational age.
Conclusion: ADC value measurements are reliable and inversely correlated with gestational age due to fetal brain maturation. The existence of a fronto-occipital gradient after 32 weeks of gestational age could be a marker of normal maturation used in clinical practice.