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Follow-up MRIs could help detect fetal brain abnormalities

An MRI scan following a mid-pregnancy ultrasound could help doctors in Arizona and around the world diagnose a potential fetal brain abnormality, according to British researchers. Their study, which was conducted at the University of Sheffield, was published in The Lancet on Dec. 14.

For the study, researchers selected 570 pregnant women who had an ultrasound at 18 to 21 weeks of pregnancy that found a possible brain abnormality in the fetus. A follow-up MRI was then conducted within two weeks of the ultrasound. The study discovered that ultrasound testing alone provided the correct diagnosis 68 percent of the time. In contrast, the MRI was accurate 93 percent of the time, and it corrected the initial ultrasound diagnosis in 25 percent of the cases.

According to background information provided with the study, brain abnormalities occur in three of every 1,000 pregnancies. These abnormalities sometimes result in a miscarriage or stillbirth. Mid-pregnancy ultrasounds are used to detect brain abnormalities and other major health problems, such as spina bifida, cleft lip or heart problems. If a problem is found, women are referred for more tests. The authors of the study recommend the use of follow-up MRIs to accurately diagnose brain abnormalities detected through ultrasound.

The failure to diagnose a possible birth defect could result in long-lasting harm to both the mother and the infant. Families who have been harmed as a result may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what legal recourse may be available to them.

Source: Medline Plus, "MRI Helps Assess Fetal Brain Abnormalities: Study," Robert Preidt, Dec. 15, 2016

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