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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Oct;42(4):416-20. doi: 10.1002/uog.12463.

Screening for fetal spina bifida at the 11-13-week scan using three anatomical features of the posterior brain.

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Collège Français d'Echographie Foetale (CFEF), Paris, France; Polyclinique Bordeaux Nord Aquitaine, Department of Women Imaging, Bordeaux, France.



To evaluate the contribution of examination of specific anatomical features of the fetal posterior brain on mid-sagittal first-trimester ultrasound examination to the early detection of open spina bifida.


Four independent observers reviewed a series of 260 mid-sagittal first-trimester ultrasound images from 52 cases of open spina bifida and 208 normal fetuses. The following analysis was performed by each reviewer for each image: Herman score calculation, intracranial translucency score (CFEF-IT) calculation and determination of presence or absence of three anatomical criteria: intracranial translucency (IT), caudal displacement of the brainstem and cisterna magna. The sensitivity and the false-positive rate for spina bifida detection were calculated for each of the latter three criteria. A secondary analysis was performed on the subset of images achieving a Herman score ≥ 7.


The highest detection rate for spina bifida was achieved by non-visualization of the cisterna magna, with associated sensitivity of 50-73% and 39-76%, respectively, for all images and for the subset of images achieving a Herman score ≥ 7. Posterior shift of the brainstem achieved the highest detection rate (86%), but for a single reviewer only. The level of variation in performance between observers was also greatest for this sign. Absence of IT was associated with a lower detection rate for all observers. Overall, an abnormal posterior brain presenting at least one of these three criteria was associated with a detection rate ranging from 50 to 90%.


In the detection of spina bifida, non-visualization of the cisterna magna achieved the best screening performance. Both non-visualization of the IT and posterior shift of the brainstem were associated with acceptable but lower detection rates. A prospective evaluation of changes in the posterior brain is needed to allow assessment of the most pertinent criteria for first-trimester screening for spina bifida.


first trimester; intracranial translucency; posterior brain; prenatal diagnosis; spina bifida; ultrasound

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