Background and Aim

Conventional two-dimensional (2D) ultrasound imaging is the primary screening modality used to diagnose congenital heart defects (CHD) before birth. However, the real-life heart is a complex three-dimensional (3D) structure, making prenatal assessment based on conventional ultrasound imaging extremely challenging. Currently, educational resources that directly link conventional prenatal ultrasound imaging to the real-life 3D heart are lacking. Here, we present a pilot study in which we used spatiotemporal image correlation (STIC) technology to create digital 3D fetal heart models. The aim of this pilot study is to determine the feasibility of generating ultrasound-based 3D fetal heart models for the development of web-based learning tool, which could provide this missing link.


The hospital database was retrospectively screened for high-quality STIC volumes, obtained as part of routine clinical management of fetuses with a prenatal CHD diagnosis, as well as healthy reference cases. Prenatal findings, pregnancy outcome, postnatal discourse, including postnatal cardiac imaging when available, were retrieved from patient records. Image segmentation and 3D reconstruction of the cardiac ultrasound volumes was performed blinded. Completed models were validated by a senior paediatric cardiologist, who had access to all clinical information.


A total of 16 models have been generated, including four cases of normal cardiac anatomy, and 12 cases with various CHDs; atrioventricular septal defect (3), transposition of the great arteries (3), venous return anomalies (2), double outlet right ventricle (1), tetralogy of Fallot (1), critical pulmonary stenosis (1), Ebstein’s anomaly (1). In all cases, the morphology of the heart and the arterial and venous connections were successfully reconstructed and validated.


Our results show that reconstructing the heart and major vessels for the generation of educational 3D fetal heart models is feasible, both in normal cardiac anatomy and various types of CHD. The next step will be expanding our database, and initiating the development of the learning tool that combines the generated 3D models with an interactive ultrasound interface. By developing this tool, we aim at providing the missing link between conventional fetal cardiac ultrasound imaging and the real-life 3D heart.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 31 May 2022
EventAEPC 2022: 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for European Paediatric and Congenital Cardiology - Geneva, Switzerland
Duration: 25 May 202228 May 2022
Conference number: 55


ConferenceAEPC 2022
Internet address

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