A systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the contribution of mr imaging to the diagnosis of foetal brain abnormalities In Utero

Eur Radiol. 2017 Jun;27(6):2367-2380. doi: 10.1007/s00330-016-4563-4. Epub 2016 Sep 21.


Objectives: This systematic review was undertaken to define the diagnostic performance of in utero MR (iuMR) imaging when attempting to confirm, exclude or provide additional information compared with the information provided by prenatal ultrasound scans (USS) when there is a suspicion of foetal brain abnormality.

Methods: Electronic databases were searched as well as relevant journals and conference proceedings. Reference lists of applicable studies were also explored. Data extraction was conducted by two reviewers independently to identify relevant studies for inclusion in the review. Inclusion criteria were original research that reported the findings of prenatal USS and iuMR imaging and findings in terms of accuracy as judged by an outcome reference diagnosis for foetal brain abnormalities.

Results: 34 studies met the inclusion criteria which allowed diagnostic accuracy to be calculated in 959 cases, all of which had an outcome reference diagnosis determined by postnatal imaging, surgery or autopsy. iuMR imaging gave the correct diagnosis in 91 % which was an increase of 16 % above that achieved by USS alone.

Conclusion: iuMR imaging makes a significant contribution to the diagnosis of foetal brain abnormalities, increasing the diagnostic accuracy achievable by USS alone.

Key points: • Ultrasound is the primary modality for monitoring foetal brain development during pregnancy • iuMRI used together with ultrasound is more accurate for detecting foetal brain abnormalities • iuMR imaging is most helpful for detecting midline brain abnormalities • The moderate heterogeneity of reviewed studies may compromise findings.

Keywords: Brain malformations; Foetal; Magnetic resonance imaging; Prenatal diagnosis; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Brain / abnormalities*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetus / abnormalities*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / standards