Doctors develop new way to use MRI to predict pregnancy complications

December 6, 2017 by Elaine Schmidt
A technique developed at UCLA measures how much blood enters the placenta and reaches the developing baby in the womb, expanding doctors’ ability to determine the health of the placenta. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA scientists have developed a new way to use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to scan the placenta. The noninvasive approach offers valuable insights into how the mother's blood enters the placenta and sustains the fetus with oxygen and nutrients during early pregnancy. The technique breaks new ground because most previous studies on this subject occurred in the laboratory after childbirth.

The placenta is a temporary organ that joins a pregnant woman to her baby through the umbilical cord. Few methods exist for safely and accurately studying the placenta in . Ultrasound indirectly measures uterine blood flow, but it is not very effective at predicting pregnancy complications. Another procedure, chorionic villus sampling, can be used to biopsy the placenta, but the test is invasive and can increase the risk of miscarriage and infection.

The researchers used MRI to track water molecules in the arterial blood of 34 women in their second trimester of pregnancy. The new technique allowed the team to measure how much blood entered the placenta and reached the developing baby in the womb, expanding doctors' ability to accurately determine the health of the placenta.

Using MRI enables doctors to measure blood flow to the and distinguish between normal and abnormal placental function. The information allows them to predict and prevent complications later in pregnancy before symptoms or testing occur. Common complications include premature birth, placental stroke, and gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia.

The study was published in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Explore further: Genetic finding may allow doctors to predict newborn health during pregnancy

More information: Xingfeng Shao et al. Measuring human placental blood flow with multidelay 3D GRASE pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling at 3T, Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (2017). DOI: 10.1002/jmri.25893

Related Stories

Genetic finding may allow doctors to predict newborn health during pregnancy

May 2, 2017
UCLA scientists have discovered specific genetic changes in the placentas of women who gave birth to growth-restricted infants. These changes appear to sabotage the ability of the placenta to grow blood vessels and adequately ...

Altered immune cells may both contribute to preeclampsia and offer new hope for treatment

April 24, 2017
Though the exact cascade of events leading to preeclampsia is unknown, reduced blood flow to the placenta (placental ischemia) is commonly thought to be a factor that contributes to the development of the pregnancy-related ...

Sound waves may hold potential to treat twin pregnancy complications

July 13, 2016
High energy sound waves could treat a potentially deadly complication that affects some twin pregnancies, says new research.

Novel framework powered by 3-D MRI accurately predicts pregnancies complicated by FGR

July 31, 2017
During the millions of pregnancies that occur in the United States every year, expectant moms learn oodles about their developing fetuses over months of gestation. But the placenta, a vital and temporary organ that shelters ...

New theory may help demystify pregnancy-related condition

November 13, 2014
Preeclampsia, a late-pregnancy disorder that is characterized by high blood pressure and organ damage, may be caused by problems related to meeting the oxygen demands of the growing fetus, experts say in a new Anaesthesia ...

Recommended for you

Womb natural killer cell discovery could lead to screening for miscarriage risk

December 14, 2017
For the first time the functions of natural killer cells in the womb have been identified.

Hormone discovery marks breakthough in understanding fertility

December 12, 2017
Scientists at The University of Nottingham have shown, for the first time, that a naturally occurring hormone plays a vital part in regulating a woman's fertility, a discovery that could lead to better diagnosis and treatment ...

Study reveals Viagra to be 'ineffective' for fetal growth restriction

December 8, 2017
A University of Liverpool led international clinical trial has found an anti-impotence drug to be ineffective at improving outcomes for pregnancies complicated by fetal growth restriction.

Obese first-time mums more likely to have premature babies

December 4, 2017
Obese women are up to three times more likely to have a premature child during their first pregnancy, according to a study from University College Dublin.

Stillbirth is not just stillbirth—more information is needed

December 4, 2017
Forty two babies are stillborn in Australia every week, and 60 per cent of them are recorded as "unexplained".

First baby from a uterus transplant in the US born in Dallas

December 2, 2017
The first birth as a result of a womb transplant in the United States has occurred in Texas, a milestone for the U.S. but one achieved several years ago in Sweden.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.