Fetal MRI

UCSF is one of the few sites in the country that is experienced with performing and interpreting fetal MRI. At UCSF, clinicians have performed a total of over 1,100 MRI of the fetal brain and/or spine. In 2009, over 170 fetal brain and/or spine MRIs were performed.  While ultrasound is the most commonly used method of monitoring fetal development, its ability to detect abnormalities in the brain is limited.  Clinicians at UCSF are using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of fetuses to better detect these abnormalities during pregnancy. They are comparing ultrasound with fetal MRI, in hopes of better understanding fetal brain anomalies.

Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also showing clinicians and researchers how various abnormalities correlate with childhood development. Currently, it is very difficult to counsel parents who have a fetus with a brain abnormality because outcomes can vary widely.  Fetal MRI enables abnormalities to be classified more thoroughly, which can then give parents a more accurate picture of what they can expect for their child from a neurological and developmental standpoint.