Embryonic and placental growth and development in the first trimester of pregnancy have impact on the health of the fetus, newborn, child and even the adult. This emphasizes the importance of this often neglected period in life. The development of three-dimensional transvaginal ultrasonography in combination with virtual reality (VR) opens the possibility of accurate and reliable visualization of embryonic and placental structures with real depth perception. These techniques enable new biometry and volumetry measurements that contribute to the knowledge of the (patho)physiology of embryonic and early placental health. Examples of such measurements are the length of complex structures like the umbilical cord, vitelline duct, limbs and cerebellum or the volume of the whole embryo and brain cavities. Moreover, for the first time, embryos can now be staged in vivo (Carnegie stages) and vasculature volumes of both the embryo and the early placenta can be measured when VR is combined with power Doppler signals. These innovative developments have already been used to study associations between periconceptional maternal factors, such as age, smoking, alcohol use, diet and vitamin status, and embryonic and early placental growth and development. Future studies will also focus on the identification of abnormal embryonic and early placental development already in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, which provides opportunities for early prevention of pregnancy complications.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Embryo, First-trimester, Placenta, Three-dimensional, Ultrasound, Virtual reality
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.placenta.2018.01.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/104442
Journal Placenta
Citation
Rousian, M, Koster, M.P.H. (Maria P.H.), Mulders, A.G.M.G.J, Koning, A.H.J, Steegers-Theunissen, R.P.M, & Steegers, E.A.P. (2018). Virtual reality imaging techniques in the study of embryonic and early placental health. Placenta. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2018.01.001