Objective: To estimate the umbilical artery and vein blood volume flow using B-mode and Doppler ultrasound in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Design: This was a cross-sectional study of 129 singleton, healthy pregnancies at 23-33 weeks' gestation. The umbilical artery and vein cross-sectional area, time-averaged velocity and pulsatility index were measured in a free loop of cord, and the fetal weight was estimated. Ranges for each parameter were obtained; from these the blood flow for the vein and artery was calculated, and the average flow corrected for fetal weight was derived.
Results: The median time for examination was 6 min. The mean cross-sectional area and time-averaged velocity for both the vein and artery increased linearly with gestation. The umbilical artery flow correlated closely with the average vein flow (r = 0.9, p < 0.001). There was a significant, though poor, inverse correlation between the umbilical artery pulsatility index and the average umbilical flow (r = -0.25, p < 0.05). The average umbilical flow (calculated from the mean of arterial and venous flow), corrected for estimated fetal weight, decreased from 189.2 ml/kg per min at 23 weeks to 176.2 ml/kg per min at 33 weeks' gestation.
Conclusion: The estimates of fetal umbilical flow obtained by this Doppler method are consistent with previously published data. Averaging the arterial and venous flow is theoretically advantageous in reducing the inherent errors in estimating either the arterial or the venous flow. This method of measuring umbilical flow may have clinical potential in assessing fetal health and disease processes.