Imaging fetal anatomy

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2022 Nov:131:78-92. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2022.02.023. Epub 2022 Mar 10.


Due to advancements in ultrasound techniques, the focus of antenatal ultrasound screening is moving towards the first trimester of pregnancy. The early first trimester however remains in part, a 'black box', due to the size of the developing embryo and the limitations of contemporary scanning techniques. Therefore there is a need for images of early anatomical developmental to improve our understanding of this area. By using new imaging techniques, we can not only obtain better images to further our knowledge of early embryonic development, but clear images of embryonic and fetal development can also be used in training for e.g. sonographers and fetal surgeons, or to educate parents expecting a child with a fetal anomaly. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the past, present and future techniques used to capture images of the developing human embryo and fetus and provide the reader newest insights in upcoming and promising imaging techniques. The reader is taken from the earliest drawings of da Vinci, along the advancements in the fields of in utero ultrasound and MR imaging techniques towards high-resolution ex utero imaging using Micro-CT and ultra-high field MRI. Finally, a future perspective is given about the use of artificial intelligence in ultrasound and new potential imaging techniques such as synchrotron radiation-based CT to increase our knowledge regarding human development.

Keywords: Anatomy; Development; Embryonic; Fetal; Human; Imaging.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Female
  • Fetus* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods