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MRI scans should be used on pregnant women

Press Association logoPress Association 15/12/2016

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans should be used to back up pregnancy ultrasounds that reveal potential foetal brain abnormalities, a UK study has found.

Scientists studied 570 women whose mid-pregnancy ultrasound examination identified a possible problem.

Providing them with an additional MRI scan within the following two weeks increased diagnostic accuracy to 93 per cent.

In contrast, relying on ultrasound alone produced a correct diagnosis in only two-thirds of cases.

Accuracy was confirmed by scanning babies after birth or by conducting post-mortem examinations when there was a miscarriage or termination.

"This study is the first of its kind and has shown that adding an MRI scan when a problem is detected provides additional information to support parents making decisions about their pregnancy," said lead researcher professor Paul Griffiths,from The University of Sheffield, UK.

"Based on our findings we propose that an MRI scan should be given in any pregnancy where the foetus may have a suspected brain abnormality."

Mid-pregnancy ultrasound scans are given between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy to detect major abnormalities such as spina bifida, cleft lip, and heart and brain defects.

If a problem is found, women are referred for more tests and in some cases offered the option of a termination or counselling.

Brain abnormalities occur in three out of every 1000 pregnancies and in some cases cause miscarriage or still-birth, said the study, published in The Lancet.

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