Fetal diffusion tensor quantification of brainstem pathology in Chiari II malformation

Eur Radiol. 2016 May;26(5):1274-83. doi: 10.1007/s00330-015-3939-1. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Objectives: This prenatal MRI study evaluated the potential of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics to identify changes in the midbrain of fetuses with Chiari II malformations compared to fetuses with mild ventriculomegaly, hydrocephalus and normal CNS development.

Methods: Fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) were calculated from a region of interest (ROI) in the midbrain of 46 fetuses with normal CNS, 15 with Chiari II malformations, eight with hydrocephalus and 12 with mild ventriculomegaly. Fetuses with different diagnoses were compared group-wise after age-matching. Axial T2W-FSE sequences and single-shot echo planar DTI sequences (16 non-collinear diffusion gradient-encoding directions, b-values of 0 and 700 s/mm(2), 1.5 Tesla) were evaluated retrospectively.

Results: In Chiari II malformations, FA was significantly higher than in age-matched fetuses with a normal CNS (p = .003), while ADC was not significantly different. No differences in DTI metrics between normal controls and fetuses with hydrocephalus or vetriculomegaly were detected.

Conclusions: DTI can detect and quantify parenchymal alterations of the fetal midbrain in Chiari II malformations. Therefore, in cases of enlarged fetal ventricles, FA of the fetal midbrain may contribute to the differentiation between Chiari II malformation and other entities.

Key points: • FA in the fetal midbrain is elevated in Chiari II malformations. • FA is not elevated in hydrocephalus and mild ventriculomegaly without Chiari II. • Measuring FA may help distinguish different causes for enlarged ventricles prenatally. • Elevated FA may aid in the diagnosis of open neural tube defects. • Elevated FA might contribute to stratification for prenatal surgery in Chiari II.

Keywords: Brainstem; Chiari II malformation; Diffusion tensor imaging; Fetus; Magnetic resonance imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / diagnosis*
  • Arnold-Chiari Malformation / embryology
  • Brain Stem / pathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods*