How to Refer Patients for Advanced Diagnostic Fetal Imaging

Fetal Brain Lab

If you're a physician who has a patient with a high-risk pregnancy, your patient may benefit from advanced diagnostic imaging. We provide you and your patients with fetal brain measurements to help guide more informed decisions for care throughout pregnancy and after childbirth.

Fetal Brain Research at Children's National Health System: Our Goals

Our lab is one of only a handful of research facilities in North America that is dedicated to fetal brain research. Our researchers' goals include:

  • Identifying abnormal development in the fetal brain as early as possible
  • Understanding why these abnormalities happen to help guide the development of medical and surgical treatments for babies before they are born

Dr. Limperopoulos and her team use their research to provide the latest, noninvasive diagnostic imaging for women with high-risk pregnancies.

Fetal Imaging at Children's National Health System: How We Help

In our Developing Brain Research Laboratory, we accept clinical referrals through our Fetal Medicine Institute to perform enhanced, noninvasive diagnostic imaging in unborn babies.

We develop noninvasive technologies using quantitative MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging, a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of organs and tissues) to identify early warning signs of brain problems in fetuses. Quantitative MRI uses the MRI scanner as a scientific instrument to measure brain tissue volume and chemicals to detect problems in a noninvasive way.

We help your patients by:

  • Analyzing the imaging results from the mother's evaluation by applying our extensive fetal brain development dataset to assess them
  • Providing you and your patient with in-depth information about how the fetus's development compares with established benchmarks for normal brain development

Our goals are to find developmental problems at an early stage and provide information to help guide effective surgical or pharmacological intervention for in utero fetuses.

Groundbreaking Fetal Brain Research: Our Work

Our extensive database of fetal brain development data is one of the most robust in the world. With it, our research team is defining benchmarks for normal brain development in fetuses.

We then compare these data benchmarks with those from high-risk pregnancies to identify brain development problems early on. This analysis allows us to provide high-risk women and their physicians detailed information about fetal development, so that these babies get the best possible care both during pregnancy and after birth.

Our team performs this research using noninvasive, quantitative MRI imaging techniques. Magnetic resonance imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of organs and tissues. Quantitative MRI uses the MRI scanner as a scientific measuring instrument to detect problems.

With these techniques, researchers gather key data about fetuses:

  • During pregnancy, in the second and third trimesters
  • Shortly after the baby is born

Physicians and researchers can determine whether the fetus's brain is maturing properly using these measurements.

Referring Physicians: Contact Us for Diagnostic Imaging

We can help you set up a referral to our lab through the Fetal Medicine Institute. Learn how our advanced, noninvasive imaging techniques may help your patients with high-risk pregnancies by following these steps:

  1. Call the Fetal Medicine Institute at 202-476-7409
  2. Ask about referrals to the Developing Brain Research Laboratory
  3. Read our general information about how to refer a patient