Abnormal or delayed development of the posterior membranous area of the brain: anatomy, ultrasound diagnosis, natural history and outcome of Blake's pouch cyst in the fetus

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To review the normal and pathological development of the posterior membranous area (PMA) in the fetal brain, to define sonographic criteria with which to diagnose a Blake's pouch cyst (BPC) in the fetus and to review the ultrasound features, associations and outcome of 19 cases of BPC seen at our center over the last 5 years.


We conducted a MEDLINE search using the terms ‘Blake's pouch’, with or without ‘fourth ventricle’ or ‘4thventricle’, with or without ‘roof’ and identified articles describing normal and/or abnormal development of the PMA, whether or not they were cited in the limited clinical literature on BPC. A description of the normal and abnormal development of BPC was derived by collating these articles. The clinical retrospective study included 19 cases of posterior fossa anomalies with a final diagnosis of BPC seen at our institution. The following variables were assessed: referral indication, gestational age at diagnosis, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings, associated anomalies, natural history and pregnancy and neonatal outcome. A transvaginal three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound examination was performed in all cases and 15 cases underwent MRI. To confirm the diagnosis, postnatal MRI, transfontanellar ultrasound or autopsy were available in all cases.


Among the 19 cases reviewed, referral indications were: suspicion of vermian abnormality in 11 (58%) cases and other non-central nervous system anomaly in eight (42%) cases. Sonographically, all cases showed the following three signs: 1) normal anatomy and size of the vermis; 2) mild/moderate anti-clockwise rotation of the vermis; 3) normal size of the cisterna magna. On 3D ultrasound, the upper wall of the cyst was clearly visible in 11/19 cases, with choroid plexuses on the superolateral margin of the cyst roof. On follow-up, the BPC had disappeared by 24–26 gestational weeks in six of the 11 cases which did not undergo termination of pregnancy (TOP), and remained unaltered until birth in the other five cases. There were associated anomalies in eight (42%) cases, in five of which this consisted of or included congenital heart disease. Karyotype was available in 14 cases, two of which were abnormal (both trisomy 21). Regarding pregnancy outcome, there were eight (42%) TOPs, two (10%) neonatal deaths and nine (48%) survivors. One neonate, in whom the BPC had disappeared by the time of birth, had obstructive hydrocephaly confirmed. Another neonate was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth. Excluding the Down syndrome baby, neurodevelopmental outcome was normal at the time of writing in all eight cases.


Based on our analysis of ultrasound features, we propose that for BPC to be diagnosed in a fetus the following three criteria should be fulfilled: 1) normal anatomy and size of the vermis; 2) mild/moderate anti-clockwise rotation of the vermis; 3) normal size of the cisterna magna. Furthermore, we found that BPC can undergo delayed fenestration at 24–26 weeks in more than 50% of cases. Finally, it seems that BPC shows a risk of association with extracardiac anomalies (heart defects in particular) and, to a lesser extent, trisomy 21. Copyright © 2012 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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