Feasibility of ventricular volumetry by cardiovascular MRI to assess cardiac function in the fetal sheep

Steven K.S. Cho, Jack R.T. Darby, Brahmdeep S. Saini, Mitchell C. Lock, Stacey L. Holman, Jessie Mei Lim, Sunthara Rajan Perumal, Christopher K. Macgowan, Janna L. Morrison, Mike Seed

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Key points: The application of fetal cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) to assess fetal cardiovascular physiology and cardiac function through the quantification of ventricular volumes has previously been investigated, but the approach has not yet been fully validated. Ventricular output measurements calculated from heart rate and stroke volumes (SV) of the right and left ventricles measured by ventricular volumetry (VV) exhibited a high level of agreement with phase-contrast (PC) blood flow measurements in the main pulmonary artery and ascending aorta, respectively. Ejection fraction of the right ventricle, which is lower than that of the left ventricle in postnatal subjects, was similar to the left ventricular ejection fraction in the fetus; probably due to the different loading conditions present in the fetal circulation. This study provides evidence to support the reliability of VV in the sheep fetus, providing evidence for its use in animal models of human diseases affecting the fetal circulation. Abstract: The application of ventricular volumetry (VV) by cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) in the fetus remains challenging due to the small size of the fetal heart and high heart rate. The reliability of this technique in utero has not yet been established. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility and reliability of VV in a fetal sheep model of human pregnancy. Right and left ventricular outputs by stroke volume (SV) measured using VV were compared with 2D phase-contrast (PC) CMR measurements of blood flow in the main pulmonary artery (MPA) and ascending aorta (AAo). At 124–140 days (d) gestation, singleton bearing Merino ewes underwent CMR under general anaesthesia using fetal femoral artery catheters, implanted at 109–117d, to trigger cine steady state free precession acquisitions of ventricular short-axis stacks. The short-axis cine stacks were segmented at end-systole and end-diastole, yielding right and left ventricular SV, ejection fraction, and cardiac outputs (SV × heart rate). PC cine acquisitions of MPA and AAo were analysed to measure blood flow, which served as comparators for the right and left cardiac outputs by VV. There was good correlation and agreement between VV and PC measures of ventricular outputs with no significant bias (r2 = 0.926; P < 0.0001; Bias = −4.7 ± 10.5 ml min−1 kg−1; 95% limits of agreement: −15.9 to 25.2 ml min−1 kg−1). This study validates fetal VV by CMR in a large animal model of human pregnancy and provides preliminary reference values of fetal sheep right and left ventricles in late gestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2557-2573
Number of pages17
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jul 2020


  • MRI
  • cardiac magnetic resonance imaging
  • fetus
  • sheep
  • ventricular volumetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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