Reliability and Feasibility of Low-Field-Strength Fetal MRI at 0.55 T during Pregnancy

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Background: The benefits of using low-field-strength fetal MRI to evaluate antenatal development include reduced image artifacts, increased comfort, larger bore size, and potentially reduced costs, but studies about fetal low-field-strength MRI are lacking. Purpose: To evaluate the reliability and feasibility of low-field-strength fetal MRI to assess anatomic and functional measures in pregnant participants using a commercially available 0.55-T MRI scanner and a comprehensive 20-minute protocol. Materials and Methods: This prospective study was performed at a large teaching hospital (St Thomas’ Hospital; London, England) from May to November 2022 in healthy pregnant participants and participants with pregnancy-related abnormalities using a commercially available 0.55-T MRI scanner. A 20-minute protocol was acquired including anatomic T2-weighted fast-spin-echo, quantitative T2*, and diffusion sequences. Key measures like biparietal diameter, transcerebellar diameter, lung volume, and cervical length were evaluated by two radiologists and an MRI-experienced obstetrician. Functional organ-specific mean values were given. Comparison was performed with existing published values and higher-field MRI using linear regression, interobserver correlation, and Bland-Altman plots. Results: A total of 79 fetal MRI examinations were performed (mean gestational age, 29.4 weeks ± 5.5 [SD] [age range, 17.6–39.3 weeks]; maternal age, 34.4 years ± 5.3 [age range, 18.4–45.5 years]) in 47 healthy pregnant participants (control participants) and in 32 participants with pregnancy-related abnormalities. The key anatomic two-dimensional measures for the 47 healthy participants agreed with large cross-sectional 1.5-T and 3-T control studies. The interobserver correlations for the biparietal diameter in the first 40 consecutive scans were 0.96 (95% CI: 0.7, 0.99; P = .002) for abnormalities and 0.93 (95% CI: 0.86, 0.97; P < .001) for control participants. Functional features, including placental and brain T2* and placental apparent diffusion coefficient values, strongly correlated with gestational age (mean placental T2* in the control participants: 5.2 msec of decay per week; R 2 = 0.66; mean T2* at 30 weeks, 176.6 msec; P < .001). Conclusion: The 20-minute low-field-strength fetal MRI examination protocol was capable of producing reliable structural and functional measures of the fetus and placenta in pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere223050
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


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