First-trimester fetal neurosonography: technique and diagnostic potential

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Feb;57(2):204-214. doi: 10.1002/uog.23149.


Most brain abnormalities are present in the first trimester, but only a few are detected so early in gestation. According to current recommendations for first-trimester ultrasound, the fetal head structures that should be visualized are limited to the cranial bones, the midline falx and the choroid-plexus-filled ventricles. Using this basic approach, almost all cases of acrania, alobar holoprosencephaly and cephalocele are detected. However, the majority of other fetal brain abnormalities remain undiagnosed until the midtrimester. Such anomalies would be potentially detectable if the sonographic study were to be extended to include additional anatomic details not currently included in existing guidelines. The aim of this review article is to describe how best to assess the normal fetal brain by first-trimester expert multiplanar neurosonography and to demonstrate the early sonographic findings that characterize some major fetal brain abnormalities. © 2020 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Keywords: brain development; fetal neurosonogram; multiplanar imaging; sonoembriology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Encephalocele / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Fetus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Holoprosencephaly / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Malformations / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*