Researchers from the Centre for Cardiovascular Imaging at the University College London Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in the U.K. compared images from whole-body MRI at 1.5 tesla and 9.4 tesla using 3D T2-weighted fast spin-echo sequences. Both types of MRI exams were performed on 18 fetuses less than 22 gestational weeks of age, followed by a conventional autopsy.
Images from each MRI exam were interpreted in a blinded manner and compared with the findings of the autopsy. Tissue contrast of 14 different regions was compared for each set of MRI images in a random order, and image quality was scored on a four-point scale for diagnostic accuracy.
Spatial resolution, tissue contrast, and image quality of all organ systems were much better with high-field MRI than with conventional MRI, lead author Dr. Sudhin Thayyil and colleagues reported. The exams produced by high-field MRI detected all structural abnormalities that were identified by conventional autopsy, and with some cases, the high-field MRI images provided more detailed information than that discovered from autopsy.
Images from the conventional MRI exams were not diagnostically useful in 78% of the cases.
The researchers suggested that if the option of a noninvasive postmortem clinical evaluation were offered in lieu of a conventional autopsy, more parents might give their permission for such a procedure, restoring postmortem research in the U.K. Postmortem research of fetuses has been declining in the country for the past decade, according to Thayyil.
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