OBJECTIVES: Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays an increasingly important role in the prenatal diagnosis of gastrointestinal abnormalities. During gestation, the bowel develops T1-weighted hyperintensity due to meconium formation. Currently used T1-weighted sequences are performed in maternal breath-hold (BH) technique, which may take up to 20 s. The free-breathing (FB) T1-weighted 3D radial VIBE (volumetric interpolated breath-hold examination) sequence requires no breath-hold, improving patient comfort. This study aimed to address how well the FB acquisition technique can visualize large bowel structures compared to the routinely performed breath-hold sequence.
METHODS: Forty-seven fetal MRI studies between 21 and 36 weeks of gestation without abdominal pathologies on prenatal MRI and ultrasound were included. All fetal scans were performed using a Philips Ingenia 1.5 T MRI. Coronal T1-weighted BH and FB sequences without fat suppression were compared. The following acquisition parameters were used (T1, FB): resolution 1.137 mm, 1.004 mm; matrix size 288 × 288, 448 × 448; FOV 328 mm, 450 mm; TR 81-132 ms, 3.47 ms; TE 4.6 ms, 1.47 ms. Due to the necessity of the breath-hold the duration of the sequence could not exceed 20 s (mean duration of the T1-weighted BH sequence 15.17 s, and mean duration of the FB sequence 26.42 s). In all examined fetuses the following structures were evaluated with respect to their visibility (0-not visible, 1-partially visible, 2-clearly visible): rectum, sigmoid, descending, transverse and ascending colon, cecum. Furthermore, motion artifacts were assessed (0-none, 1-intermediate, 2-severe motion artifacts), and the signal intensity (SI) ratio between maternal fat and fetal rectum SI was calculated.
RESULTS: No significant differences in the visibility of sigmoid and colon between BH and FB were detected, only the cecum could be seen slightly better (in 29.8 % of cases) using BH technique. Motion artifacts were similar between BH and FB. There was a non-significant SI difference (p = 0.68) in the rectum, with a higher SI in the BH sequence.
CONCLUSIONS: The FB acquisition technique compared to T1 using BH is equal regarding visibility of bowel structures and artifacts. Due to non-inferiority to the BH technique, the FB sequence is a good alternative in cases where BH cannot be performed. As the FB sequence further allows for thinner slices with a good signal, even small bowel loops may be visualized.
- Breath Holding
- Colon/diagnostic imaging
- Fetus/diagnostic imaging
- Image Enhancement
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Retrospective Studies