The early diagnosis of neural tube defects

Authors

  • Zeev Blumenfeld MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rambam Medical Center, and Al-Kol Institute of Ultrasound, Haifa, 31096, Israel
    • Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Section, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology ‘A’, Rambam Medical Center, The Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 31096, Israel
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  • Ephraim Siegler,

    1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rambam Medical Center, and Al-Kol Institute of Ultrasound, Haifa, 31096, Israel
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  • Moshe Bronshtein

    1. The Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 31096, Israel
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Abstract

The sonographic diagnosis of fetal neural tube defects (NTDs) has been enhanced by the recognition of associated brain and skull anomalies. Previous reports have found these anomalies to be accurate in predicting spina bifida after 16 weeks' gestation, and an inverse correlation was suggested between the presence of these sonographic markers and gestational age. Therefore, we assumed that early second-trimester sonography would be at least as accurate as that performed after 16 weeks' gestation. To examine this hypothesis, we looked for the presence of these cranial sonographic markers suggestive of open NTDs in 8011 low-risk cases, using transvaginal sonography (TVS), between the 12th and 17th week of gestation (menstrual age). Fetal NTDs were identified in ten cases (l.25%o). The NTDs were cervico-cranial in three, lumbo-sacral in six, and thoracal in one of the ten cases. None of the seven cases examined was dyskaryotic. Cerebellar dysmorphism, ‘banana’ sign, cerebellar absence, and hypoplasia were detected in all the low NTDs, usually before the detection of the spinal lesion. All the sonographically diagnosed malformations were confirmed by post-abortal examination except in one case, where the patient decided to continue the pregnancy and refused follow-up. We therefore conclude that transvaginal sonographic examination of the fetal skull before the 17th week of gestation is an accurate method for the detection of low NTDs.

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