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Eur J Pediatr. 2020 Jan;179(1):29-38. doi: 10.1007/s00431-019-03500-x. Epub 2019 Dec 3.

Diagnostic accuracy of fetal MRI to detect cleft palate: a meta-analysis.

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Clinical Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Dermatology/Allergology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, G05.129, 3584, CX, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


This systematic review aims to determine the diagnostic accuracy of fetal MRI for detecting cleft palate in fetuses at risk for orofacial clefts. Pubmed, Embase, and CINAHL were searched systematically. A diagnostic study was included if it performed MRI (index test) and postnatal examination (reference test) in fetuses at risk for orofacial clefts. Methodological quality was assessed using the QUADAS-2. A meta-analysis was performed with a random-effects model, calculating the pooled sensitivity, specificity, and area under the curve. The search resulted in eight studies (334 fetuses) to be included: four prospective and four retrospective studies. The applicability concern was low. There was, however, a risk of selection and information bias. All studies showed that MRI well predicted the chance of cleft palate. The sensitivity results were homogeneous, but heterogeneity was assumed regarding the specificity estimate (Cochrane's Q test: p = 0.00). The pooled sensitivity was 0.97 (95% CI 0.93-0.99); the pooled specificity was 0.94 (0.89-0.97). The area under the curve was 0.98 (95% CI 0.98-0.99).Conclusion: This meta-analysis shows that MRI has an excellent sensitivity and good to excellent specificity for diagnosing cleft palate in fetuses at risk for orofacial clefts. Future research should assess applicability for clinical care.What is Known:• Using ultrasound for prenatal detection of cleft palate leads to misdiagnosis frequently.• MRI could potentially improve the prenatal detection rate of cleft palate.What is New:• Eight studies describe the diagnostic accuracy of MRI for detecting cleft palate.• Combined results show excellent sensitivity and good to excellent specificity.


Cleft palate; Diagnostic accuracy; MRI; Prenatal

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