A simple, noninvasive method of imaging a mother’s placenta may help clinicians catch pregnancy complications early, before they exacerbate and endanger mom and baby.
That’s according to a new study by University of California, Los Angeles, researchers, published Nov. 4 in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
UCLA scientists made the early diagnosis using what’s called pseudo-continuous arterial spin MRI, pinpointing patients who had low blood flow to their placentas. Failure of maternal blood flow to reach this region is believed to snowball into several ischemic placental diseases, such as the life-threatening blood-pressure disorder preeclampsia, restricted growth of the fetus or preterm birth.
In an analysis that included more than 1.4 million births, exposure to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the first trimester of pregnancy compared with nonexposure was not associated with increased risk of harm to the fetus or in early childhood, although gadolinium MRI at any time during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of a broad set of rheumatological, inflammatory, or skin conditions and, possibly, for stillbirth or neonatal death, according to a study appearing in the September 6 issue of JAMA.
Concern has been expressed about the safety of MRI exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy due to the heating of sensitive tissues by radiofrequency fields and exposure to the loud acoustic environment. When indicated, MRI’s diagnostic accuracy is improved with gadolinium, an intravenous contrast medium. Fetal safety of MRI during the first trimester of pregnancy or with gadolinium enhancement at any time of pregnancy is unknown.
With the use of universal health care databases in the province of Ontario, Joel G. Ray, M.D., M.Sc., F.R.C.P.C., of St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, and colleagues identified all births of more than 20 weeks from 2003-2015 to evaluate the long-term safety after exposure to MRI in the first trimester of pregnancy or to gadolinium at any time during pregnancy.
The study included 1,424,105 deliveries. In pregnancies that lasted a minimum of 21 gestational weeks, 1 in 250 had an MRI in pregnancy, including 1 in 1,200 in the first trimester and 1 in 3,000 with gadolinium contrast. Maternal MRI in the first trimester was not associated with a higher risk of stillbirth or neonatal death, congenital anomalies, neoplasm, or hearing loss.