Fetal magnetic resonance (MR) imaging plays an increasing and valuable role in antenatal diagnosis and perinatal management of fetal gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities. Advances in MR imaging data acquisition and use of motion-insensitive techniques have established MR imaging as an important adjunct to obstetric ultrasonography (US) for fetal diagnosis. In this regard, MR imaging provides high diagnostic accuracy for antenatal diagnosis of common and uncommon GI pathologic conditions. In the setting of fetal GI disease, T1-weighted images demonstrate the amount and distribution of meconium, which is crucial to the diagnostic capability of fetal MR imaging. Specifically, knowledge of the T1 signal intensity characteristics of fetal meconium, the normal pattern of meconium with advancing gestational age, and the expected caliber of small and large bowel in the fetus is key to diagnosis of abnormalities of the GI tract. Use of ultrafast T2-weighted sequences for evaluation of the expected location and morphology of fluid-containing structures, including the stomach and small bowel, in the fetal abdomen further aids in diagnostic confidence. Uncommonly encountered fetal GI pathologic conditions, especially cloacal dysmorphology, may demonstrate characteristic MR imaging patterns, which may add additional information to that from fetal US, allowing improved fetal and neonatal management. This article discusses common indications for fetal MR imaging of the GI tract, imaging protocols for fetal GI MR imaging, the normal appearance of the fetal GI tract with advancing gestational age, and the imaging appearances of common fetal GI abnormalities, as well as uncommon fetal GI conditions with characteristic appearances.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging