Preterm infants born before their lungs mature are at risk for respiratory distress syndrome. If a fetus faces possible premature delivery, a test to determine fetal lung maturity may be performed to help doctors determine the best plan for delivery. Research presented at the American Roentgen Ray Society’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in May shows that MR spectroscopy may provide an alternative, noninvasive way of gauging fetal lung maturity.Lung maturity is currently tested by evaluating the surfactant to albumin ratio of fluid samples taken via amniocentesis. However, this procedure is invasive and carries risks such as infection or preterm labor. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, wanted to see whether choline concentration detected via MR spectroscopy could be used instead because, if it proved accurate, the technique could offer an alternative that is noninvasive.The researchers performed high-resolution (11.7 T) MR spectroscopy on 15 ex vivo amniotic fluid samples obtained between 34 and 40 weeks of gestation. They found that choline values indeed rose as the surfactant to albumin ratio increased, showing that choline could be a useful indicator of lung maturity.More samples must be tested to see whether the trend is statistically significant before the method can be used for in vivo detection of fetal lung maturity.