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Magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging of cervical microstructure in normal early and late pregnancy in vivo

      Background

      Cervical remodeling is an important aspect of birth timing. Before cervical ripening, the collagen fibers are arranged in a closely interweaved network, but during ripening, the fibers become disorganized and the cervix becomes more hydrated. To quantitatively measure cervical remodeling, we need a noninvasive method to monitor changes in cervical collagen fiber organization and hydration in vivo.

      Objective

      To use diffusion tensor imaging to image and quantify the spatial and temporal differences in cervical microstructure between normal early and late pregnancies.

      Study Design

      After institutional review board approval and consent, a group of healthy women in early pregnancy (22 patients at 12–14 weeks’ gestation) and a group in late pregnancy (27 patients at 36–38 weeks’ gestation) underwent magnetic resonance imaging on a Siemens MAGNETOM Vida 3 Tesla unit. Diffusion tensor imaging of the cervix in the axial plane was performed with a two-dimensional single-shot echo planar imaging diffusion-weighted sequence. In early and late pregnancy groups, the differences of the diffusion tensor imaging measures were compared between the subglandular zone and the outer stroma regions of the cervix. In addition, the diffusion tensor imaging measures were compared between the early and late pregnancy groups. Finally, for the late pregnancy group, the diffusion tensor imaging measures were compared between the primipara and multipara groups.

      Results

      Diffusion tensor imaging measures of microstructure significantly differed between the subglandular zone and outer stroma regions of the cervix in both early and late pregnancies. In the subglandular zone, fractional anisotropy was lower in the late pregnancy group than in the early pregnancy group (0.37 [0.34–0.42] vs 0.50 [0.43–0.58]; P<.0005), suggesting increased collagen fiber disorganization in this zone. In addition, mean diffusivity was higher in the late pregnancy group than in the early pregnancy group (1.84 [1.73–2.02] mm2/sec×10–3 vs 1.56 [1.42–1.69] mm2/sec×10–3; P=.001), suggesting increased hydration in the subglandular zone. In the outer stroma, neither fractional anisotropy (0.44 [0.40–0.50] vs 0.41 [0.37–0.43]; P=.095) nor mean diffusivity (2.09 [1.92–2.25] mm2/sec×10–3 vs 2.12 [2.04–2.24] mm2/sec×10–3; P=.269) significantly differed between early pregnancy and late pregnancy, suggesting insignificant temporal microstructural changes in this cervical zone. Diffusion tensor imaging measures did not significantly differ between cervixes from primiparous and multiparous women in late pregnancy.

      Conclusion

      This in vivo study demonstrates that diffusion tensor imaging can noninvasively quantify the microstructural differences in collagen fiber organization and hydration in cervical subregions between early pregnancy and late pregnancy.

      Key words

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