A comparison of fetal organ measurements by echo-planar magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound


Dr P. Gowland, Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England, UK.


Objectives  To compare fetal organ size measured using echo-planar magnetic resonance imaging and 2D ultrasound. To determine the relative accuracy with which each technique can predict fetal growth restriction.

Design  A cross sectional, observational study comparing two different measurement techniques against a gold standard, in a normal clinical population and an abnormal population.

Setting and Population  Seventy-four pregnant women (33 who were ultimately found to be normal and 37 with fetal growth restricted fetuses) were recruited from the City Hospital Nottingham UK to be scanned once (at various gestations).

Methods  Each fetus had a standard ultrasound biometry assessment followed by magnetic resonance imaging measurement of organ volumes.

Main outcome measures  For each measurement for both techniques, the normal population was plotted with 90% confidence intervals. Fetal growth restricted subjects were compared with the normal population using this plot; 2 × 2 tables were created for each measurement. This was used to calculate the relative sensitivities and positive predictive value of the different measurements. A Bland–Altman plot was used to compare the ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging measurements of fetal weight.

Results  Brain sparing was seen in ultrasonic head circumference measurements, but an overall reduction in fetal growth restriction brain volume was apparent using magnetic resonance imaging at late gestations. Across the whole range of gestational ages, ultrasound assessment of fetal weight was the best predictor of fetal growth restriction.

Conclusion  Ultrasound fetal weight assessment appears to identify more fetuses with fetal growth restriction than abdominal circumference. The brain sparing apparent in ultrasonic head circumference measurements of fetuses with fetal growth restriction masks a reduction in brain volume observed with magnetic resonance imaging.