Expectant parents may soon be able to view a three-dimensional virtual reality version of the foetus, researchers say.
This is possible with new technology that combines MRI and ultrasound data into a 3-D that can be viewed with virtual reality devices.
In tests, Brazilian researchers found that virtual reality foetal 3-D models are similar to the appearance of the newborn after birth. The models recreate the entire internal structure of the foetus, which can help doctors detect abnormalities.
The research was to be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), in Chicago.
"The 3-D foetal models combined with virtual reality immersive technologies may improve our understanding of foetal anatomical characteristics and can be used for educational purposes and as a method for parents to visualise their unborn baby," said study co-author Dr Heron Werner Jr in a RSNA news release. He is from the Clinica de Diagnostico por Imagem in Rio de Janeiro.
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The technology can also help doctors and parents when faced with foetal abnormalities and treatment decisions, the researchers said.
Werner and his colleagues have used this approach on patients at a clinic in Rio de Janeiro, including cases where the foetus had evidence of an abnormality that required surgery after birth. The researchers said they hope to expand their use of the technology over the next year.
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