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Paediatr Drugs. 2012 Jun 1;14(3):143-55. doi: 10.2165/11597030-000000000-00000.

Prenatal neurologic anomalies: sonographic diagnosis and treatment.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fetal Medicine Unit, University Hospital Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


The low prevalence of fetal CNS anomalies results in a restricted level of exposure to, and limited experience for most obstetricians involved in, prenatal ultrasound. Sonographic guidelines for screening the fetal brain in a systematic way may increase the detection rate of fetal CNS anomalies, thus promoting correct referral to tertiary care centers offering patients a multidisciplinary approach to the condition. The aim of this review is to elaborate on the prenatal sonographic diagnosis and outcome of various CNS malformations. Detailed neurosonographic investigation has become available through high-resolution vaginal ultrasound probes and the development of a variety of 3-dimensional (3D) ultrasound modalities, such as ultrasound tomographic imaging. In addition, fetal magnetic resonance imaging is particularly helpful in the detection of gyration and neurulation anomalies, and disorders of the gray and white matter. Isolated mild ventriculomegaly is a rather common finding with good overall outcome. With an increasing diameter of the atria, however, and especially with the presence of associated malformations, long-term neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcome is disturbed in about 15% or more of cases. In view of recent developments in fetal therapy for neural tube defects, there is a clear need for a high level of ultrasound screening, work-up and counseling in tertiary care centers to identify those cases that might benefit from in utero intervention. The failure of prosencephalic midline induction and development results in midline defects ranging from alobar holoprosencephaly to isolated corpus callosum defects. The detection of callosal abnormaties is enhanced by 3D ultrasound, but counseling on neurodevelopmental outcome remains challenging. The Dandy-Walker spectrum includes isolated megacisterna magna, Blake's pouch cyst, hypoplasia of the vermis and Dandy-Walker malformation. Except for complete agenesis of the vermis associated with fourth ventricle cyst formation, data on long-term outcomes for the various conditions is largely lacking. Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) results in the highest incidence of children born with, or developing, long-term neurologic conditions. If proof of fetal infection has been delivered, microcephaly, cortical malformations, and intraparenchymal cysts show a strong correlation with poor outcome. Fetuses with CMV-related ultrasound abnormalities might benefit from maternal transplacental treatment. The aneurysm of the vein of Galen, a vascular malformation of the brain, often results in high cardiac output failure. After neonatal arterial embolization, survival is about 50% with normal neurologic development in 36% of cases. Over 50% of intracranial tumors are teratomata, presenting as fast-growing heterogeneous solid-cystic masses with calcifications. Most intracranial hemorrhages are related to the ventricular system, and prognosis is often poor, particularly in cases involving parenchymal and subdural bleeding. Proliferation disorders of the brain are often characterized by microcephaly. Their etiology is heterogeneous and prenatal diagnosis is often made late in gestation.

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