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J Perinat Med. 2003;31(6):459-68.

Magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound in the assessment of the fetal central nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Division of Prenatal Diagnosis and Therapy, University Hospital of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Ultrasound is the screening modality of choice for evaluation of the fetal central nervous system (CNS). However, in cases of difficult diagnosis further fetal investigation is desirable. Due to ultrafast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques artifacts from fetal motions are minimized. MRI involves no exposure to radiation and hence appears to be safe. Due to the better soft tissue contrast, additional investigation by MRI may extend the sonographic diagnosis of fetal CNS-anomalies. Ultrasound and MRI are complementary imaging methods in the evaluation of the fetal CNS. The most important indications for ultrasound are screening for CNS anomalies and serial assessment of the dynamic of the disorder. The most important indications for fetal MRI are the "second opinion" and investigation by fetal MRI instead of postpartum MRI (especially in cases of planned postpartum intervention). In this article the indications and limitations of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging in the evaluation of the fetal CNS are discussed.

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