Utero-placental insufficiency is thought to be a major cause of growth retardation in utero and an important risk factor in the perinatal period. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether MRI could detect changes of fetal oxygenation, based on the blood oxygenation level dependence (BOLD) of the MRI tissue signal. Nine third trimester women (34-38 weeks) with normal pregnancies underwent abdominal MRI examinations. Following localization of the fetal liver using T-2-weighted single-shot HASTE scans, up to 7 breath-held transaxial single-slice gradient-echo image sets were obtained through the fetal liver. The mother then commenced oxygen breathing with the imaging procedure repeated after 20 minutes of O-2 breathing. For each image set, T-2(*) values are calculated using linear regression of log (signal) versus TE for a region of interest within the fetal liver selected by the attending radiologist. Fetal liver T-2(*) values were calculated before and after O-2 breathing for each multi-echo image acquisition set. A signed rank test was used to test for a significant change in fetal liver T-2(*) between the pre-O-2 and post-O-2 image sets. A significant increase in T-2(*) (alpha < 0.05) was seen in 5 of the 9 fetal livers, a smaller increase (of borderline statistical significance, alpha = 0.057) in 2 livers, and no significant change (alpha > 0.05) in 2 livers. Our study indicates that T-2(*) measurement of the fetal liver may detect alteration in fetal oxygen level following maternal oxygenation using the BOLD effect. This technique may potentially be applied to the identification and understanding of placental dysfunction in intra-uterine growth retardation. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
- magnetic resonance imaging
- BOLD effect
- fetal oxygenation
- intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)