Postmortem fetal MR imaging: comparison with findings at autopsy

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1997 Jan;168(1):41-6. doi: 10.2214/ajr.168.1.8976917.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to prospectively compare findings from postmortem fetal MR imaging with findings at autopsy.

Subjects and methods: Twenty-six fetuses were imaged on a 1.5-T MR scanner using two-dimensional and high-resolution three-dimensional fast spin-echo techniques immediately before autopsy. The MR images were reviewed independently by three radiologists who evaluated then for major and minor malformations. These findings were then compared with those at autopsy.

Results: The 26 subjects had 47 major and 11 minor malformations. All three radiologists correctly identified 37 of the major malformations on the MR images (detection rate, 79%), and at least one of the three reviewers correctly identified 43 of the abnormalities (detection rate, 91%). Only one of the 11 minor anomalies was identified by any reviewer. Reviewers made six false-positive diagnoses. In two cases, both with major CNS malformations, MR imaging was superior to autopsy in defining in situ relationships.

Conclusion: Although autopsy remains the study of choice for evaluating causes of fetal death, MR imaging is an excellent alternative when autopsy is refused. Additionally, MR imaging may be a valuable adjunct to autopsy for fetuses with CNS anomalies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / diagnosis*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / pathology
  • Autopsy
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / pathology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology
  • Fetus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male