A modified technique that uses the eyes as the line of reference means a 50 percent reduction in the time necessary to take MRI images of the fetal brain.
"One of the challenges of imaging the fetal head is that the fetus can move during the study, so it is often difficult to obtain the three different imaging views that best show intracranial anatomy especially when study time is prolonged." said Keyanoosh Hosseinzadeh, MD, Chief of Body MRI at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and lead author of the study. "When we draw a line of reference through the eyes, and subsequent imaging is performed along that plane, we can then rapidly acquire the three imaging planes," he said.
The total examination time, using the modified technique is now about 12 minutes, Dr Hosseinzadeh said. That compares to the standard technique that can take at least twice that long, he added.
"Fetal MRI is being increasingly performed because it provides an excellent view of the brain tissue and it doesn't use radiation," said Dr. Hosseinzadeh. It is usually performed when ultrasound is inconclusive or further information is required that may change the management of the pregnancy, he said.
"Although no deleterious effects have been noted from MRI to the unborn fetus, we make every effort to minimize exposure of the fetus to the electromagnetic field; we also want to reduce the total examination time for the mother while still obtaining the appropriate diagnostic images," said Dr. Hosseinzadeh. In the past, it took several attempts – almost in a hit and miss fashion – to obtain the diagnostic images needed. This technique allows us to avoid taking unnecessary images, he said.