Fetal heart abnormalities detailed before birth by new 3D images

Scientists from King’s College London and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital have developed a new method of using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to produce detailed 3D images of the foetal heart, to improve the diagnosis of congenital heart disease before birth.

3d foetal heart imagingIn the trial, published in The Lancet, the team successfully used a new computer processing method to turn standard MRI images into clear three-dimensional models. These images are often unclear due to the movement of the baby.

85 pregnant women provided clinicians with the opportunity to create reliable, high-resolution information about the foetal heart, helping to optimise treatment for the affected babies after birth.

First author, Dr David Lloyd, Clinical Research Fellow at King’s College London, said:

Our hope is that this approach will now become standard practice for the Evelina foetal cardiology team who make a prenatal diagnosis in 400 babies each year. This will also improve the care of more than 150 babies each year who deliver at St Thomas’ Hospital with known congenital heart disease.

John Simpson, Professor of Paediatric and Foetal Cardiology at Evelina London, said:

Three dimensional MRI revolutionise the type of information we can obtain before babies are born. This impacts directly on care we provide after birth and provides new insights into structural heart defects before birth.

Senior author, Professor Reza Razavi, Director of Research at King’s Health Partners and Professor of Paediatric Cardiovascular Science and Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist, said:

Application of this novel computing technology has enabled, for the first time, MRI scanning to really help with clarifying the diagnosis in a subgroup of babies, particularly when the vessels around the heart are involved.

The team is now working to combine this 3D imaging with other advanced ultrasound and MRI techniques to try to understand why some babies go on to develop more severe forms of congenital heart disease than others.

Our vision is to bring together and build on the extensive strengths of King’s Health Partners to create an Institute of Women’s and Children’s Health that will improve outcomes for women and children in our local area, nationally and internationally. 

The King’s Health Partners Imaging and Biomedical Engineering Clinical Academic Group provides comprehensive imaging facilities across one of the largest set ups of its kind in Europe.

Read more on the King’s College London website.