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

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Abstract

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
JournalRadiology
Volume309
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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