Objectives: Fat–water MRI can be used to quantify tissues’ lipid content. We aimed to quantify fetal third trimester normal whole-body subcutaneous lipid deposition and explore differences between appropriate for gestational age (AGA), fetal growth restriction (FGR), and small for gestational age fetuses (SGAs). Methods: We prospectively recruited women with FGR and SGA-complicated pregnancies and retrospectively recruited the AGA cohort (sonographic estimated fetal weight [EFW] ≥ 10th centile). FGR was defined using the accepted Delphi criteria, and fetuses with an EFW < 10th centile that did not meet the Delphi criteria were defined as SGA. Fat–water and anatomical images were acquired in 3 T MRI scanners. The entire fetal subcutaneous fat was semi-automatically segmented. Three adiposity parameters were calculated: fat signal fraction (FSF) and two novel parameters, i.e., fat-to-body volume ratio (FBVR) and estimated total lipid content (ETLC = FSF*FBVR). Normal lipid deposition with gestation and differences between groups were assessed. Results: Thirty-seven AGA, 18 FGR, and 9 SGA pregnancies were included. All three adiposity parameters increased between 30 and 39 weeks (p < 0.001). All three adiposity parameters were significantly lower in FGR compared with AGA (p ≤ 0.001). Only ETLC and FSF were significantly lower in SGA compared with AGA using regression analysis (p = 0.018–0.036, respectively). Compared with SGA, FGR had a significantly lower FBVR (p = 0.011) with no significant differences in FSF and ETLC (p ≥ 0.053). Conclusions: Whole-body subcutaneous lipid accretion increased throughout the third trimester. Reduced lipid deposition is predominant in FGR and may be used to differentiate FGR from SGA, assess FGR severity, and study other malnourishment pathologies. Clinical relevance statement: Fetuses with growth restriction have reduced lipid deposition than appropriately developing fetuses measured using MRI. Reduced fat accretion is linked with worse outcomes and may be used for growth restriction risk stratification. Key Points: • Fat–water MRI can be used to assess the fetal nutritional status quantitatively. • Lipid deposition increased throughout the third trimester in AGA fetuses. • FGR and SGA have reduced lipid deposition compared with AGA fetuses, more predominant in FGR.
- Adipose tissue
- Fetal growth retardation
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Prenatal diagnosis
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging