Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology vol:30 issue:3 pages:318-24
OBJECTIVE: To determine the pattern of apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values in the normal fetal brain obtained with diffusion-weighted images (DWI) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a template for normal brain development throughout gestation. METHODS: This was a prospective study of 46 fetuses without suspicion of brain pathology undergoing a total of 66 ultrasound examinations between 17 and 37 weeks of gestation. At T2-weighted MRI, four left and four right brain regions were delineated on transverse slices of the native DWI using a b-value of 0 s/mm2 (b0 images). We examined native b-value images and calculated ADC(avg), ADC(low) and ADC(high) in the basal ganglia, cerebellar hemisphere, frontal parenchyma and occipital parenchyma. Linear regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between gestational age and b0 values as well as the calculated ADC values. RESULTS: Delineations were successful in all fetuses for all regions except for the cerebellar hemispheres in four fetuses. There was a negative correlation between gestational age and b0 values in all examined anatomical regions (P<0.002). For ADC(avg), there were no significant changes in the basal ganglia with increasing gestational age, a positive correlation in the frontal (P<0.0001) and occipital (P=0.03) parenchyma and a negative correlation in the cerebellar hemispheres (P=0.01). For ADC(low), there was a negative correlation between gestational age and the cerebellum (P=0.0002) and basal ganglia (P=0.047), but no correlation for the frontal or occipital parenchyma. For ADC(high), there was a positive correlation with gestational age for the frontal parenchyma (P=0.004), occipital parenchyma (P=0.02) and basal ganglia (P=0.03) but there was no correlation for the cerebellum. CONCLUSIONS: DWI b0 values decreased in the left and right basal ganglia, cerebellar hemisphere, frontal parenchyma and occipital parenchyma between 17 and 37 weeks of gestation and ADC(avg) values increased in two out of four cerebral regions. It remains to be determined to what extent these observations differ in fetuses with suspicion of brain anomalies and whether such measurements will be useful and more predictive of outcome compared with standard MRI sequences.