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Placental Imaging Identifies Fetal Growth Restriction

Magnetic resonance imaging of the placenta could identify pathologically small fetuses.

By
Mary Bates, Contributor
Monday, December 18, 2017

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Fetal growth restriction can lead to medical issues in newborns, including death, and the increased risk of some diseases in adulthood. It is strongly associated with low fetal weight, but fetal weight alone cannot distinguish all cases of fetal growth restriction from those who are simply small for their age.

Identifying true cases of fetal growth restriction could reduce unnecessary anxiety, tailor surveillance after birth, and reduce medical interventions. With this in mind, researchers recently evaluated the potential usefulness of magnetic resonance imaging in identifying fetal growth restriction independently of fetal size. They published their findings in the journal Radiology.

The researchers compared normal pregnancies and those complicated by fetal growth restriction using blood oxygenation level-dependent and oxygen-enhanced MRI. Both these techniques offer noninvasive ways to assess dysfunction in placental oxygenation, which could potentially identify fetal growth restriction.

The researchers found differences in certain imaging parameters between normal pregnancies and those complicated by fetal growth restriction, demonstrating their potential as markers of placental function.

In the future, MRI of the placenta could be used to correctly pick out fetal growth restriction among fetuses that are small for their gestational age. This could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of fetal growth restriction in high risk pregnancies.

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