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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2000 Oct;21(9):1688-98.

Fast MR imaging of fetal CNS anomalies in utero.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.



Although sonography is the primary imaging technique for evaluating the developing fetus, significant limitations exist in the sonographic prenatal diagnosis of many brain disorders. Fast MR imaging is increasingly being used to determine the underlying cause of nonspecific fetal CNS abnormalities detected sonographically and to confirm or provide further support for such anomalies. Our goal was to determine the value of MR imaging in establishing the diagnosis of fetal CNS anomalies, to ascertain how this information might be used for patient counseling, and to assess its impact on pregnancy management.


We prospectively performed MR examinations of 73 fetuses (66 pregnancies) with suspected CNS abnormalities and compared these with available fetal sonograms, postnatal images, and clinical examinations. Retrospectively, the impact on patient counseling and pregnancy management was analyzed.


Images of diagnostic quality were routinely obtained with in utero MR imaging, which was particularly valuable in detecting heterotopia, callosal anomalies, and posterior fossa malformations, and for providing excellent anatomic information. We believe that 24 (46%) of 52 clinical cases were managed differently from the way they would have been on the basis of sonographic findings alone. In every case, the referring physicians thought that MR imaging provided a measure of confidence that was not previously available and that was valuable for counseling patients and for making more informed decisions.


Sonography is the leading technique for fetal assessment and provides reliable, inexpensive diagnostic images. Fast MR imaging is an important adjunctive tool for prenatal imaging in those instances in which a complex anomaly is suspected by sonography, when fetal surgery is contemplated, or when a definitive diagnosis cannot be determined.

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