The ear in fetal MRI: what can we really see?
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The aim of this study was to investigate the ability to depict the components of the ear on brain-oriented fetal MRI studies.
Retrospective evaluation of the ear in MRI studies was performed post-mortem in 16 fetuses ranging from 15 to 22 gestation weeks (GW), and in 122 examinations in vivo of fetuses ranging from 20 to 38 GW. The cochlea, vestibular apparatus, middle ear, and external auditory canal were separately graded according to the components that were delineated.
The components of the inner and middle ear were fully delineated in 100% of the post-mortem examinations, but the external auditory canals were only seen in only 25%.
In the in vivo group, the imaging detail was much lower. Cochlear turns could be identified in 75% of the fetuses, the vestibule and the lateral semicircular canals in 72% andossicles in 70%. Before 25 GW, the ability to identify these individual parts was 50%, 30%, and 33%, respectively, and above it was 89%, 93%, and 90% . In most cases, the external auditory canals could only be seen after 29 GW.
In fetal MRI studies in vivo, it is possible to depict the components of the ear in the majority of the fetuses, in such a manner as to exclude major malformations. However, MRI might not provide enough detail to rule out pathology of the ear before 25 GW, this being a critical age for pregnancy management in many countries
KeywordsFetal MRI Ear Temporal bone Development
This study was partially funded by a grant from the Swedish Medical Association. We would like to thank Miss Clare Kundert for the assistance in language correction.
Conflict of interest
We declare that we have no conflict of interest.
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