Fetal and fetal brain volume estimation in the third trimester of human pregnancy using gradient echo MR imaging

Magn Reson Imaging. 1998 Apr;16(3):235-40. doi: 10.1016/s0730-725x(97)00281-6.


The Cavalieri method has been applied in combination with gradient echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the increase in the volume of the fetus and fetal brain in the third trimester of pregnancy. Eighteen women with singleton pregnancies were recruited. Birthweights for the fetuses all lay within the 10-90th centile based on Liverpool data. A regression analysis, weighted using values derived from the coefficient of error predicted for each volume estimate, revealed a linear relationship between total fetal volume and gestational age (R2 = 0.88) and between fetal brain volume and gestational age (R2 = 0.71) during the third trimester. Fetal volume increased by an average of 25.2 ml per day and fetal brain volume increased by an average of 2.3 mL per day. Fetal brain volume is on average a constant proportion (10%, SD = 2%) of total fetal volume throughout the third trimester. Volume data were also obtained for eight fetuses diagnosed as abnormal. The volume of seven of the eight abnormal fetuses fell outside the 95% confidence interval established from the data obtained for the normal fetuses. However, for only three of the eight abnormal fetuses did brain volume fall outside the 95% confidence interval established for normals, possibly due to brain sparing occurring in asymmetrical growth retardation. The volume of the fetus and fetal brain may be readily estimated directly using the Cavalieri method and magnetic resonance imaging. These parameters represent potentially useful information for assessing fetal growth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Cephalometry / instrumentation
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnosis
  • Congenital Abnormalities / embryology
  • Echo-Planar Imaging / instrumentation*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnosis
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / embryology
  • Fetal Organ Maturity / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / instrumentation
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / instrumentation*
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity