Structural congenital brain disease in congenital heart disease: results from a fetal MRI program

Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2013 Mar;17(2):153-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpn.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Sep 1.


Objective: To identify the type and incidence of fetal brain pathology in fetuses with a prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease (CHD).

Patients and methods: 67 pregnant women underwent a fetal MR-examinations between 20 and 38 gestational weeks. MR was done on a 1.5 T superconducting system. The type of cardiac malformation was defined by fetal echocardiography. Fetuses with a chromosomal abnormality or an extracardiac anomaly were excluded.

Results: Fetal MRI scans in the final study cohort (53 fetuses) yielded normal results in 32 fetuses and a brain abnormality in 21 fetuses. Congenital brain disease (CBD) was found in 39% of the final study cohort of fetuses with CHD. MRI findings were classified into malformations, acquired lesions and widening of the ventricles and/or outer CSF spaces (malformations: 7 fetuses, acquired lesions: 5 fetuses, changes in CSF spaces: 9 fetuses). Asymmetry of the ventricles was the most common finding in the CSF group.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that fetal MRI can be used to characterize structural CBD in CHD. Advanced MRI techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging and proton spectroscopy are tools that, in the future, will certainly shed light on the spectrum of structural and functional CBDs that are associated with CHD.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / complications*
  • Brain Diseases / congenital*
  • Brain Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pregnancy