Fetal Echoplanar Imaging: Promises and Challenges

Top Magn Reson Imaging. 2019 Oct;28(5):245-254. doi: 10.1097/RMR.0000000000000219.


Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been gaining increasing interest in both clinical radiology and research. Echoplanar imaging (EPI) offers a unique potential, as it can be used to acquire images very fast. It can be used to freeze motion, or to get multiple images with various contrast mechanisms that allow studying the microstructure and function of the fetal brain and body organs. In this article, we discuss the current clinical and research applications of fetal EPI. This includes T2*-weighted imaging to better identify blood products and vessels, using diffusion-weighted MRI to investigate connections of the developing brain and using functional MRI (fMRI) to identify the functional networks of the developing brain. EPI can also be used as an alternative structural sequence when banding or standing wave artifacts adversely affect the mainstream sequences used routinely in structural fetal MRI. We also discuss the challenges with EPI acquisitions, and potential solutions. As EPI acquisitions are inherently sensitive to susceptibility artifacts, geometric distortions limit the use of high-resolution EPI acquisitions. Also, interslice motion and transmit and receive field inhomogeneities may create significant artifacts in fetal EPI. We conclude by discussing promising research directions to overcome these challenges to improve the use of EPI in clinical and research applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / embryology
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Echo-Planar Imaging / methods*
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / embryology