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Images of the foetal heart through 3D reconstructions

12 July 2017

New imaging techniques corrects foetal motion to allow for detailed 3D reconstructions of the foetal heart whilst still in the womb, even when the developing organ is just a few centimetres in size .

King’s, with support from the iFind (intelligent Foetal Imaging Diagnosis) project, developed the one-of-a-kind images through a new MRI scanning method.

Image of a foetus and the foetal heart, produced directly from prenatal MRI images. Credit: iFind Project/David F A Lloyd

Image of a foetus and the foetal heart, produced directly from prenatal MRI images. Credit: iFind Project/David F A Lloyd

In collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the technique, unique to King’s Health Partners, has provided unrivalled images of the foetal heart and vessels to plan care after birth.

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By combining these images with other advanced ultrasound and MRI methods to measure blood flow through the heart and lungs, brain, and the placenta, a uniquely detailed anatomical and physiological profile of the foetal cardiovascular system can be generated for each patient.

The project hopes that these new methods will aid the antenatal diagnosis of severe congenital heart disease and enable a better understanding of how the foetal and placental circulation can affect other aspects of long-term health, such as brain growth, neurodevelopment and long-term cardiovascular health.

Published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the new techniques have had an immediate clinical impact for conditions which have traditionally been difficult to diagnose before birth such as coarctation of the aorta, right aortic arch, and some forms of hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Already the images are helping to better inform pre- and postnatal management in some cases, with nearly 100 referrals to the project from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and other centres around the UK.

This case study features in Innovation Impact Stories, a collection of examples of how King’s Health Partners is improving patient care.

King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering collaboration between King’s, Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts. For more information, visit http://www.kingshealthpartners.org/.

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