Micro-computed tomography: a new diagnostic tool in postmortem assessment of brain anatomy in small fetuses

Neuroradiology. 2019 Jul;61(7):737-746. doi: 10.1007/s00234-019-02168-2. Epub 2019 Jan 28.


Purpose: The aim of our study was to evaluate the postmortem micro-CT anatomy of early fetal human fetal brains, either in situ or isolated.

Methods: We studied 12 ex vivo specimens, 9 whole human fetuses (9-18 GW), and 3 isolated samples (16-26 GW). Specimens were fixed in formalin, then immersed in Lugol solution. Images were evaluated by two neuroradiologists. The depiction of CNS structures was defined based on the comparison between micro-CT images and a reference histologic anatomical Atlas of human brain development.

Results: Micro-CT provided informative high-resolution brain images in all cases, with the exception of one case (9 weeks) due to advanced maceration. All major CNS structures (i.e., brain hemispheres, layering, ventricles, germinal neuroepithelium, basal ganglia, corpus callosum, major cranial nerves, and structures of the head and neck) were recognizable.

Conclusions: Micro-CT imaging of the early fetal brain is feasible and provides high-quality images that correlate with the histological Atlas of the human brain, offering multiplanar and volumetric images that can be stored and shared for clinical, teaching, and research purposes.

Keywords: Autopsy; Fetus; First trimester; Micro-focus computed tomography; Neuroimaging; Postmortem imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Cadaver
  • Fetus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • X-Ray Microtomography*