Micro-computed tomography: a new diagnostic tool in postmortem assessment of brain anatomy in small fetuses

  • Sophie LombardiEmail author
  • Elisa Scola
  • Davide Ippolito
  • Vanessa Zambelli
  • Giovanni Botta
  • Serena Cuttin
  • Fabio Triulzi
  • Claudio M. Lombardi
Diagnostic Neuroradiology



The aim of our study was to evaluate the postmortem micro-CT anatomy of early fetal human fetal brains, either in situ or isolated.


We studied 12 ex vivo specimens, 9 whole human fetuses (9–18 GW), and 3 isolated samples (16–26 GW).

Specimens were fixed in formalin, then immersed in Lugol solution. Images were evaluated by two neuroradiologists. The depiction of CNS structures was defined based on the comparison between micro-CT images and a reference histologic anatomical Atlas of human brain development.


Micro-CT provided informative high-resolution brain images in all cases, with the exception of one case (9 weeks) due to advanced maceration. All major CNS structures (i.e., brain hemispheres, layering, ventricles, germinal neuroepithelium, basal ganglia, corpus callosum, major cranial nerves, and structures of the head and neck) were recognizable.


Micro-CT imaging of the early fetal brain is feasible and provides high-quality images that correlate with the histological Atlas of the human brain, offering multiplanar and volumetric images that can be stored and shared for clinical, teaching, and research purposes.


Fetus Autopsy Neuroimaging Micro-focus computed tomography Postmortem imaging First trimester 



Micro-focus computed tomography


Gestational age


Germinal neuroepithelium or zone


Ganglionic eminence


Intermediate zone




Cortical plate


Marginal zone


Compliance with ethical standards


No funding was received for this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Informed consent

For this type of retrospective study formal consent is not required.

Supplementary material (16.6 mb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeuroradiologyGrande Ospedale Metropolitano NiguardaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Neuroradiology UnitFondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore PoliclinicoMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyOspedale San GerardoMonzaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Health SciencesUniversità di Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  5. 5.Azienda Ospedaliera Città della Salute e delle Scienze di TorinoPresidio Ospedaliero OIRM-Sant’AnnaTurinItaly
  6. 6.Department of PathologySan Gerardo HospitalMonzaItaly
  7. 7.Department of Pathophysiology and TransplantationUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  8. 8.Department of Radiology-Studio Diagnostico EcoVimercateItaly

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