Imaging of Unborn Babies Reaches New Levels


Parents may soon be able to watch their unborn babies grow in realistic 3-D immersive visualisations, thanks to new technology that transforms MRI and ultrasound data into a 3-D virtual reality model of the baby, according to research being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).


MRI provides high-resolution foetal and placental imaging with excellent contrast. It is generally used in foetal evaluation when ultrasound cannot provide sufficiently high-quality images.


Researchers in Brazil created virtual reality 3-D models based on foetal MRI results. Once an accurate 3-D model is created -- including the womb, umbilical cord, placenta and foetus -- the virtual reality device can be programmed to incorporate the model.


"The 3-D foetal models combined with virtual reality immersive technologies may improve our understanding of foetal anatomical characteristics and can be used for educational purposes and as a method for parents to visualize their unborn baby," said study co-author Dr Heron Werner Jr., from the Clínica de Diagnóstico por Imagem, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


The virtual reality foetal 3-D models are remarkably similar to the postnatal appearance of the newborn baby. They recreate the entire internal structure of the baby, including a detailed view of the respiratory tract, which can aid doctors in assessing abnormalities.


The technology has numerous potential applications. For example, if ultrasound showed an abnormal mass near the baby’s airway, physicians could use the 3-D images to assess the entire length of the airway and make better informed decisions about delivery.


The technology also can help coordinate care with multidisciplinary teams and provide better visual information to parents to help them understand malformations and treatment decisions.


The researchers have used the technique on patients at a clinic in Rio de Janeiro, including cases where the baby had evidence of an abnormality that required postnatal surgery. They hope to use the technology more broadly over the next year.

Science Daily. November 21.

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