Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations have become well-established procedures at many institutions and can serve as useful adjuncts to ultrasound (US) exams when diagnostic doubts remain after US. Due to fetal motion, however, fetal MRI exams are challenging and require the MR scanner to be used in a somewhat different mode than that employed for more routine clinical studies. Herein we review the techniques most commonly used, and those that are available, for fetal MRI with an emphasis on the physics of the techniques and how to deploy them to improve success rates for fetal MRI exams. By far the most common technique employed is single-shot T2-weighted imaging due to its excellent tissue contrast and relative immunity to fetal motion. Despite the significant challenges involved, however, many of the other techniques commonly employed in conventional neuro- and body MRI such as T1 and T2*-weighted imaging, diffusion and perfusion weighted imaging, as well as spectroscopic methods remain of interest for fetal MR applications. An effort to understand the strengths and limitations of these basic methods within the context of fetal MRI is made in order to optimize their use and facilitate implementation of technical improvements for the further development of fetal MR imaging, both in acquisition and post-processing strategies.
Keywords: Fetal MRI; Review; Technical update.