Use of Fetal Magnetic Resonance Image Analysis and Machine Learning to Predict the Need for Postnatal Cerebrospinal Fluid Diversion in Fetal Ventriculomegaly

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Abstract

Importance

Which children with fetal ventriculomegaly, or enlargement of the cerebral ventricles in utero, will develop hydrocephalus requiring treatment after birth is unclear.

Objective

To determine whether extraction of multiple imaging features from fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and integration using machine learning techniques can predict which patients require postnatal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) diversion after birth.

Design, Setting, and Patients

This retrospective case-control study used an institutional database of 253 patients with fetal ventriculomegaly from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2014, to generate a predictive model. Data were analyzed from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2015. All 25 patients who required postnatal CSF diversion were selected and matched by gestational age with 25 patients with fetal ventriculomegaly who did not require CSF diversion (discovery cohort). The model was applied to a sample of 24 consecutive patients with fetal ventriculomegaly who underwent evaluation at a separate institution (replication cohort) from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 2007. Data were analyzed from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 2009.

Exposures

To generate the model, linear measurements, area, volume, and morphologic features were extracted from the fetal MRI, and a machine learning algorithm analyzed multiple features simultaneously to find the combination that was most predictive of the need for postnatal CSF diversion.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of the model in correctly classifying patients requiring postnatal CSF diversion.

Results

A total of 74 patients (41 girls [55%] and 33 boys [45%]; mean [SD] gestational age, 27.0 [5.6] months) were included from both cohorts. In the discovery cohort, median time to CSF diversion was 6 days (interquartile range [IQR], 2-51 days), and patients with fetal ventriculomegaly who did not develop symptoms were followed up for a median of 29 months (IQR, 9-46 months). The model correctly classified patients who required CSF diversion with 82% accuracy, 80% sensitivity, and 84% specificity. In the replication cohort, the model achieved 91% accuracy, 75% sensitivity, and 95% specificity.

Conclusion and Relevance

Image analysis and machine learning can be applied to fetal MRI findings to predict the need for postnatal CSF diversion. The model provides prognostic information that may guide clinical management and select candidates for potential fetal surgical intervention.

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