To evaluate the feasibility of identifying the fetal cardiac and thoracic vascular structures with non-gated dynamic balanced steady-state free precession (SSFP) MRI sequences.
We retrospectively assessed the visibility of cardiovascular anatomy in 60 fetuses without suspicion of congenital heart defect. Non-gated dynamic balanced SSFP sequences were acquired in three anatomic planes of the fetal thorax. The images were analyzed following a segmental approach in consensus reading by an experienced pediatric cardiologist and radiologist. An imaging score was defined by giving one point to each visualized structure, yielding a maximum score of 21 points. Image quality was rated from 0 (poor) to 2 (excellent). The influence of gestational age (GA), field strength, placenta position, and maternal panniculus on image quality and imaging score were tested.
30 scans were performed at 1.5T, 30 at 3T. Heart position, atria and ventricles could be seen in all 60 fetuses. Basic diagnosis (>12 points) was achieved in 54 cases. The mean imaging score was 16.8+/-3.8. Maternal panniculus (r=-0.3; p=0.015) and gestational age (r=0.6; p<0.001) correlated with imaging score. Field strength influenced image quality, with 1.5T being better than 3T images (p=0.012). Imaging score or quality were independent of placenta position.
Fetal cardiac MRI with non-gated SSFP sequences enables recognition of basic cardiovascular anatomy.