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Applicability of three-dimensional imaging techniques in fetal medicine


To generate physical models of fetuses from images obtained with three-dimensional ultrasound (3D-US), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and, occasionally, computed tomography (CT), in order to guide additive manufacturing technology.

Materials and Methods

We used 3D-US images of 31 pregnant women, including 5 who were carrying twins. If abnormalities were detected by 3D-US, both MRI and in some cases CT scans were then immediately performed. The images were then exported to a workstation in DICOM format. A single observer performed slice-by-slice manual segmentation using a digital high resolution screen. Virtual 3D models were obtained from software that converts medical images into numerical models. Those models were then generated in physical form through the use of additive manufacturing techniques.


Physical models based upon 3D-US, MRI, and CT images were successfully generated. The postnatal appearance of either the aborted fetus or the neonate closely resembled the physical models, particularly in cases of malformations.


The combined use of 3D-US, MRI, and CT could help improve our understanding of fetal anatomy. These three screening modalities can be used for educational purposes and as tools to enable parents to visualize their unborn baby. The images can be segmented and then applied, separately or jointly, in order to construct virtual and physical 3D models.

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