A cohort study conducted in the UK found that carrying out additional MRI scan during pregnancy can result in the accurate detection of possible brain abnormality in the foetus.
The study was performed by scientists from University of Sheffield, Newcastle University, University of Birmingham, Birmingham Women’s Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and received funds from the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme.
It enrolled 570 women subjected to mid-pregnancy ultrasound scan which revealed brain abnormalities in the foetus.
The mid-pregnancy scan is an ultrasound scan, undertaken by an 18 and 21 weeks pregnant woman, which detects major physical abnormalities such as spina bifida, cleft lip, and heart and brain abnormalities.
If a problem is detected, women are advised to take more tests and sometimes advised a termination or counselling.
University of Sheffield department of infection, immunity and cardiovascular disease professor and lead author of study Paul Griffiths said: “This study is the first of its kind and has shown that adding an MRI scan when a problem is detected provides additional information to support parents making decisions about their pregnancy.
“Based on our findings we propose that an MRI scan should be given in any pregnancy where the foetus may have a suspected brain abnormality.”
The women participating in the study underwent an extra scan using MRI within two weeks of their first scan, which resulted in a 93% accurate diagnosis assisting the doctors to provide proper diagnosis and advice to the parents.
Researchers will continue with the health economics analysis of the trial results to determine if the extra scan should be used routinely.
Commenting on the significance of the research University of Vermont professor Rod Scott said: “Accurate diagnosis of significant brain abnormalities has important therapeutic implications.
“Consequently, it is essential that tools used for prenatal diagnosis are rigorously evaluated.
“This trial strongly supports the view that in utero Magnetic Resonance (iuMR) imaging is an excellent technique, and it should be incorporated into clinical practice as soon as possible.”
It was reported that only cases identified by the ultrasound scan were given the extra MRI, so any cases where an ultrasound did not identify an abnormality would not have been included in this study.
Image: A scan of a foetus. Photo: courtesy of NHS.