Scientists have created 3D images of a baby’s heart while still inside the womb – a development that could revolutionise the treatment of congenital disease before birth.
Regular MRI scans of pregnant women were put through a powerful computer program developed by experts at King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.
This then transformed the standard images – which are often unclear due to the baby’s movement and the speed its heart beats – into clear three-dimensional images.
These images then provide doctors with a clear view of any abnormality.
Professor Reza Razavi, 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.”
John Simpson, professor of paediatric and fetal cardiology, added: “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.”
The research used MRI scans from 85 pregnant women and it is hoped the process can be easily adopted by other hospitals.
The team of scientists 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.