• 4D;
  • feasibility;
  • fetal echocardiography;
  • spatiotemporal image correlation;
  • STIC



To investigate the feasibility of incorporating spatiotemporal image correlation (STIC) into a tertiary fetal echocardiography program.


During the study period all pregnant women fitting our inclusion criteria were enrolled consecutively. Four sonographers participated in the study, one of whom had substantial previous experience of STIC volume acquisition and three of whom did not. STIC volumes were acquired within the time slot allocated for the usual examination and all attempts were recorded. STIC volumes were assessed on acquisition conditions, the quality (as defined by a checklist of cardiac structures that could be visualized), and the rendering abilities. Furthermore, possible learning effects and the influence of experience with STIC on volume acquisition were studied.


STIC volume acquisition was successful in 75.7% (112/148) of cases in which it was attempted. The more experienced sonographer had a higher success rate in STIC volume acquisition (experienced vs. less experienced, 88.4% vs. 70.5%, P = 0.02). Of all analyzed STIC volumes, 64.8% were of high or sufficient quality. STIC volume quality and rendering ability correlated strongly with the acquisition conditions. High-quality STIC volumes successfully rendered the intracardiac septa in 84.6% of cases. The coronal atrioventricular plane was rendered in 12/26 cases (46.2%).


This study shows that incorporation of STIC volume acquisition into the daily practice of a tertiary fetal echocardiography program is feasible. Sonographers do not have to be specifically experienced in three- or four-dimensional ultrasound imaging to acquire high-quality STIC volumes. For successful STIC acquisition and subsequent successful analysis, correct acquisition conditions are of major importance. Finally, our results demonstrate that STIC is as susceptible as conventional two-dimensional ultrasound imaging to individual variations and limitations in scanning windows. Copyright © 2008 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.