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Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018 Apr;23(2):102-111. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2017.11.005. Epub 2017 Dec 9.

First and second trimester screening for fetal structural anomalies.

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Feto-Maternal Unit, Royal Hobart Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia; Department of Perinatal Medicine, Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia; Public Health Genetics Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia. Electronic address:


Fetal structural anomalies are found in up to 3% of all pregnancies and ultrasound-based screening has been an integral part of routine prenatal care for decades. The prenatal detection of fetal anomalies allows for optimal perinatal management, providing expectant parents with opportunities for additional imaging, genetic testing, and the provision of information regarding prognosis and management options. Approximately one-half of all major structural anomalies can now be detected in the first trimester, including acrania/anencephaly, abdominal wall defects, holoprosencephaly and cystic hygromata. Due to the ongoing development of some organ systems however, some anomalies will not be evident until later in the pregnancy. To this extent, the second trimester anatomy is recommended by professional societies as the standard investigation for the detection of fetal structural anomalies. The reported detection rates of structural anomalies vary according to the organ system being examined, and are also dependent upon factors such as the equipment settings and sonographer experience. Technological advances over the past two decades continue to support the role of ultrasound as the primary imaging modality in pregnancy, and the safety of ultrasound for the developing fetus is well established. With increasing capabilities and experience, detailed examination of the central nervous system and cardiovascular system is possible, with dedicated examinations such as the fetal neurosonogram and the fetal echocardiogram now widely performed in tertiary centers. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is well recognized for its role in the assessment of fetal brain anomalies; other potential indications for fetal MRI include lung volume measurement (in cases of congenital diaphragmatic hernia), and pre-surgical planning prior to fetal spina bifida repair. When a major structural abnormality is detected prenatally, genetic testing with chromosomal microarray is recommended over routine karyotype due to its higher genomic resolution.


Congenital anomalies; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neurosonography; Nuchal translucency measurement; Prenatal diagnosis; Ultrasonography

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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