Changes in human fetal oxygenation during maternal hyperoxia as estimated by BOLD MRI


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  • Conflicts of interest: None declared

Correspondence to: Anne Sørensen. E-mail:



Changes in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) signal are closely related to changes in fetal oxygenation. In this study, we aimed to investigate the changes in human fetal oxygenation during maternal hyperoxia by using the non-invasive BOLD MRI technique.


Eight healthy pregnant women in gestational week 28 to 34 were included. With the use of a facial oxygen mask, we induced maternal hyperoxia and measured changes in the BOLD MRI signal of selected fetal organs.


In a number of fetal organs, the BOLD MRI signal increased significantly (P < 0.01) during maternal hyperoxia (mean change in % ± SEM): liver (14.3 ± 3.7%), spleen (15.2 ± 3.5%) and kidney (6.2 ± 1.8%) as well as the placenta (6.5 ± 1.6%). In the fetal brain, however, the BOLD MRI signal remained constant (0.3 ± 0.2%).


During maternal hyperoxia, we demonstrated an increased oxygenation in a number of human fetal organs by using the non-invasive BOLD technique. The oxygenation of the fetal brain remained constant, thus a ‘reversed’ brain sparing mechanism could be considered in healthy fetuses subjected to hyperoxia. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.