Diffusion-weighted MR imaging of the normal fetal lung

Csilla Balassy, Gregor Kasprian, Peter C. Brugger, Bence Csapo, Michael Weber, Marcus Hörmann, Alexander Bankier, Roland Bammer, Christian J. Herold, Daniela Prayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To quantify apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) changes in fetuses with normal lungs and to determine whether ADC can be used in the assessment of fetal lung development. In 53 pregnancies (20-37th weeks of gestation), we measured ADC on diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) in the apical, middle, and basal thirds of the right lung. ADCs were correlated with gestational age. Differences between the ADCs were assessed. Fetal lung volumes were measured on T2-weighted sequences and correlated with ADCs and with age. ADCs were 2.13±0.44 μm2/ms (mean±SD) in the apex, 1.99±0.42 μm2/ms (mean±SD) in the middle third, and 1.91±0.41 μm2/ms (mean±SD) in the lung base. Neither the individual ADC values nor average ADC values showed a significant correlation with gestational age or with lung volumes. Average ADCs decreased significantly from the lung apex toward the base. Individual ADCs showed little absolute change and heterogeneity. Lung volumes increased significantly during gestation. We have not been able to identify a pattern of changes in the ADC values that correlate with lung maturation. Furthermore, the individual, gravity-related ADC changes are subject to substantial variability and show nonuniform behavior. ADC can therefore not be used as an indicator of lung maturity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-706
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean radiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Apparent diffusion coefficient
  • Diffusion-weighted MR imaging
  • Fetal lung
  • Lung development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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