Pediatric Surgery International (2018) 34:297–305
X-ray micro-computed-tomography in pediatric surgery: a new tool
for studying embryos
· N. Peukert
· R. Metzger
· H. Schneider
· R. Haak
· J. Gosemann
· M. Lacher
· D. Kluth
Accepted: 6 November 2017 / Published online: 22 November 2017
© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017
Purpose The embryology of common congenital malformations is discussed controversially. Studies are hampered by a
shortage of study material and techniques which require partial or complete preparation and therewith destruction of embryos.
X-ray micro-computed-tomography (µCT) is a technical opportunity keeping the embryos intact. Thus, the aim of this study
was to assess the applicability of µCT in embryonic research compared to the anatomical information obtained by scanning
electron microscopy (SEM).
Methods Chicken, rat, mouse and sheep embryos, processed either for SEM studies or as whole embryos, were imaged in
three-dimensional (3D) using µCT. The obtained two-dimensional (2D) digital datasets were volume rendered by tomographic
reconstruction software and studied using analysis software.
Results All embryos were µCT scanned without technical problems. The quality of the µCT images (image contrast, ana-
tomical details) was excellent, but varied depending on age and species studied. µCT imaging allowed a more comprehensive
anatomical/morphological analysis but showed less surface details compared to SEM.
Conclusion µCT is a technique suitable and innovative for pediatric surgical research, which allows detailed evaluation of
entire embryos without time- and specimen-consuming micro-dissection. Samples prepared for SEM can be used for µCT
and vice versa.
Keywords Embryology · X-ray micro-computed-tomography · Scanning electron microscopy · Organogenesis
The treatment of congenital malformations is one of the
main tasks for pediatric surgeons. Therefore, profound
knowledge of the embryology of these malformations is of
highest importance . Up to now, the understanding of
normal and abnormal embryology has been hampered by the
lack of study material and technical limitations of imaging.
Traditionally, two-dimensional (2D) serial sections are
used for morphologic studies in embryos. However, serial
sections are often diﬃcult to interpret and require a large
amount of study material . Therefore, three-dimensional
(3D) reconstructions of 2D images were introduced to
enhance visualization . However, this technique is time-
consuming and bears a high risk of misinterpretation due
to artiﬁcial changes of the original anatomy. Thus, alterna-
tive techniques like scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
have been evaluated and gained major importance [4–6].
This technique also has disadvantages as processing speci-
mens for SEM often requires dissection of the embryo to
Susann Brosig and Nicole Peukert contributed equally to the
content of the paper.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00383-017-4213-1) contains
supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Susann Brosig
Department of Pediatric Surgery, University of Leipzig,
Liebigstraße 20a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Surgery, Paracelsus
Medical University, Müllner Hauptstraße 48, 5020 Salzburg,
Department of Cariology, Endodontology
and Periodontology, University of Leipzig, Liebigstraße 12,
04103 Leipzig, Germany