Research Projects


Facial Profile Angle: A pilot project to improve prenatal detection of retrognathia and micrognathia

Principal Investigator: Denise Pugash

The presence of a severely small chin (micrognathia) in a baby may lead to serious and life-threatening conditions. The milder form, retrognathia, can be seen with syndromes and other significant abnormalities. The existing published methods of measuring chin size are cumbersome and inaccurate.

This study will assess the feasibility of a novel, simple measurement, the “Facial Profile Angle” (FPA), which uses 2D and/or 3D ultrasound scans to measure the angle between the tip of the nose, the upper lip, and the chin. The hypothesis is that a normal range of values can be obtained using the FPA. These values will be compared with images in babies with confirmed abnormalities of chin size. The aim is to obtain a consistent and reliable measurement which avoids false positive diagnoses. Additionally, identifying fetuses with these conditions earlier will help to identify newborns that require extra support at delivery and allow the best possible healthcare outcomes for the child.

Funding: 2023 Perinatal Research Imaging and Evaluation (PRIME) Centre Research Award

In Progress

Placenta, FEtal Brain BLood flow, and Substance Use ExposureS (PEBBLES)

Funding: 2023 Perinatal Research Imaging and Evaluation (PRIME) Centre Research Award

Principal Investigator: Charissa Patricelli

Co-Investigators: Tim Oberlander, Amanda Easton, Robert Rohling, Kenneth I. Lim, Jeff Bone, Wendy Robinson

PRIME Equipment Used: GE Voluson E10 BT 21

Recruitment Target: 14 participants

Canada continues to face a growing opioid epidemic, and women and birthing persons are able to access opioid agonist therapy (OAT), such as methadone, buprenorphine, and slow-release oral morphine at higher rates. The goal of this pilot feasibility study is to gather preliminary data to learn more about opioid agonist therapy (OAT) and pregnancy, including a pregnant person’s placenta and baby.

Stillbirth Risk Identification Using Multiparametric Ultrasound (STIMULUS)

Funding: STIMULUS is one of a team of global performers who were selected for the Welcome Leap In Utero Program

Principal Investigator: Robert Rohling

Co-Investigators: Farah Deeba, Chantal Mayer, Jefferson Terry, Jennifer Hutcheon, Denise Pugash

PRIME Equipment Used: GE Voluson E10 BT 21

Recruitment Target: 440 participants

Every year, approximately two million babies die in utero. Stillbirths have long-lasting personal and psychological consequences for parents, as well as substantial costs for wider society. Many of these deaths (between 25% and 60%) are classified as unexplained.

STIMULUS aims to reduce stillbirth rates by capturing more detailed ultrasound information from the mother, fetus, and placenta. Researchers will use this information to better understand the quality of fetal and placental tissue and differentiate between healthy pregnancies and pregnancies that may have underlying complications, including stillbirth.

All participants are recruited through the South Community Birth Program and clinics at BC Women’s Hospital. Participants are asked to complete a maximum of three ultrasounds throughout their pregnancy. All ultrasounds take place at the PRIME Centre.


Pilot Project to assess the reliability of transabdominal cervical length measurement to screen for short cervix in a Canadian Cohort

Funding: BCCHR Catalyst Grant

Principal Investigator: Christina Nowik

Co-Investigators: Amanda Easton, Chantal Mayer, Kenneth I. Lim, Jennifer Hutcheon

PRIME Equipment Used:

Recruitment Target: 180 participants (for the second phase of study)

This study comprises of two phases. PRIME Centre was used to complete the first quality assurance phase to ensure inter-rater reliability of cervical assessment.

This study aims to assess the potential to use transabdominal ultrasound to provide standardized, universal cervical length screening. To achieve this, transabdominal cervical length measurement is compared with gold standard endovaginal ultrasound measurement in high-risk patients already booked for endovaginal cervical length assessment. If transabdominal ultrasound demonstrates reasonable sensitivity for short cervix, as assessed by endovaginal ultrasound, the research team can pursue a larger study to establish universal cervical length screening with transabdominal ultrasound, which is more accessible and cost-effective.

SWAVE-2 Project: (Shear Wave Absolute Vibro-Elastography), studying post-delivery placentas in patients with pre-eclampsia and severe fetal growth restriction. (Terminated early without complete data due to Covid-19 risks and restrictions).

Principal Investigator: Robert Rohling

Project Lead: Farah Deeba

Co-Investigators: Ricky Hu, Jefferson Terry, Denise Pugash, Jennifer A Hutcheon, Chantal Mayer, Septimiu Salcudean

PRIME Equipment Used:

STANDARDIZATION and validation of two methods of MEASUREMENT of the fetal cerebral LATERAL VENTRICLES

Principal Investigator: Amanda Easton

Co-Investigators: Ariadna Fernandez, Arianne Albert

PRIME Equipment Used: GE Voluson E10 BT 19

Recruitment Target: 30 participants

Historically, various techniques have been employed to measure fluid spaces in the fetal brain using ultrasound. One method emerged as the gold standard for over two decades until 2009 when Dr. Laurent Guibaud introduced a new approach. Dr. Guibaud’s method, leveraging different anatomical landmarks, proposed that the new method was technically easier and a more accurate way of measuring these fluid spaces. For the new method to use the older method’s normative data values and “normal” cut-off, the new method must be validated. Any significant difference between the measurements of the two methods mandates the creation of a new normative dataset for the new approach.
The objective of this single site pilot study was to estimate the difference in measurements between the two methods and to establish the technical feasibility of the new method. The study found that there was a clinically important difference between the two methods and that the new method can reliably be used after 21 weeks gestation due to the visibility of a specific anatomical landmark in the fetal brain. A study with a larger sample size could yield more reliable results. However, the identified significant difference between the methods is an important consideration when applying a normal cut-off to borderline measurements.