Serious Pregnancy Complication Detected With MRI

Placenta accreta is increasingly common but more easily identified, study finds

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TUESDAY, Dec. 1, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A magnetic resonance imaging test is highly effective at detecting a life-threatening pregnancy complication called placenta accreta, researchers report.

The condition occurs when the placenta surrounding a fetus attaches too deeply to a woman's uterus. During delivery, the placenta can pull out parts of the uterine wall, rupturing blood vessels and putting the mother at risk of severe hemorrhaging.

"Due to the increase in cesarean sections and other surgeries that leave scarring on the uterine wall, coupled with women giving birth later in life, the incidence of accreta has increased dramatically over the past 20 years," lead researcher Dr. Reena Malhotra, a radiologist at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, said in a news release.

Routine prenatal ultrasound often detects placenta accreta, but can't always definitively diagnose subtle cases, the study authors noted.

In this study, Malhotra and colleagues compared MRI findings and surgical and/or pathology results from 71 women who underwent MRI after a suspicious prenatal ultrasound or clinical examination or because they had significant risk factors for placenta accreta.

The researchers found that MRI was 90.1 percent accurate in detecting the presence of accreta.

"Our findings demonstrate that MRI is an extremely useful adjunct to ultrasound for assessing this potentially life-threatening obstetric condition," Malhotra said.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, in Chicago.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about placental conditions.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Dec. 1, 2009

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