Geometric morphometric analysis of shape outlines of the normal and abnormal fetal skull using three-dimensional sonographic multiplanar display




Geometric morphometric analysis has been used to quantify differences in biological shapes. Cranial irregularities are described in anomalous fetuses but are qualitative and ill-defined. Our goal was to apply geometric morphometric statistical analysis using three-dimensional (3D) multiplanar display to quantify shape differences in normal and abnormal fetal skulls.


This was a retrospective pilot study of mid-trimester patients undergoing ultrasonography. 3D multiplanar display using spatial rotation was used to identify landmarks in coronal and transverse planes to establish a consistent fetal facial profile. Outline coordinates of the brow were determined by blinded examiners using computer software. Elliptical Fourier analysis (EFA) was used to obtain sets of functional coefficients. An atypicality index (AI) was determined from retained principal component (PC) scores. An AI > 95th percentile of the expected distribution defined outliers.


Outlines were successfully identified in 38 patients (six abnormal). Using the AI, there were three outliers, all from abnormal fetuses (trisomy 18, trisomy 21, and campomelic dysplasia). Two fetuses with trisomy 21 and one with an unbalanced translocation had normal atypicality indices.


3D multiplanar display and geometric morphometric analysis enable quantification of fetal skull shape. An abnormal skull shape was identified in two of four aneuploid fetuses and no normal ones. Geometric morphometric analysis represents a promising new quantitative modality which, when applied with 3D sonographic multiplanar display, may be used to more objectively analyze fetal malformation. Larger prospective trials are needed to refine the technique and improve reproducibility. Copyright © 2006 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.