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New 3D images will help to find heart problems in babies before birth

Scientists from Evelina London and King’s College London have developed a new method using MRI to produce detailed 3D images of the fetal heart. This will improve the diagnosis of congenital heart disease in babies before they are born.

Tiny, fast moving, unborn babies can be difficult to diagnose with ultrasounds, meaning it can be hard to see abnormalities in the blood vessels around their hearts.

In a paper, published in the Lancet, the team from Evelina London and King’s College London write about how they successfully used a new computer processing method for when congenital heart disease is suspected. Their research allowed standard MRI images, which are often unclear because of the moving baby, to become clear three-dimensional models. The 3D models were used for 85 pregnant women and provided reliable, high-resolution information.

John Simpson, professor of paediatric and fetal cardiology at Evelina London, said: “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 team are now working to combine this 3D imaging with other advanced ultrasound and MRI techniques. They hope this may help them to understand why some babies go on to develop more severe forms of congenital heart disease than others.

Read the full story at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.