Objective: To investigate the effects of maternal dexamethasone administration on umbilical and fetal cerebral artery flow velocity waveforms.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Robert Ballanger Hospital, Aulnay-sous-Bois, France.
Sample: Twenty-six pregnant women with singleton pregnancies considered at risk for preterm delivery. At baseline, all pregnancies had normal fetoplacental vascular resistance.
Methods: These women were given weekly six intravenous doses of 4 mg of dexamethasone eight hours apart.
Main outcome measures: Doppler studies were performed from both umbilical artery (UA) and fetal middle cerebral artery (MCA) before (day 0), during (day 2), immediately after (day 4) and shortly after (day 7) every steroid course.
Results: No significant variation was noted in both umbilical artery pulsatility index (PI) and fetal heart rate through dexamethasone therapy. Compared with mean initial values, we found on day 4 a significant decrease in MCA PI of 0.28 (F = 7.17, P < 0.001) and a significant increase in UA:MCA PI ratio of 0.08 (F = 3.85, P = 0.013); in contrast no significant change was documented on days 2 and 7 in both MCA pulsatility index and UA:MCA PI ratio. After multiple regression analysis, only the decrease in fetal middle cerebral artery pulsatility index on day 4 remained significant (F= 5.84, P= 0.001).
Conclusions: The current study finds in healthy fetuses a transient, significant and unexplained decrease in fetal middle cerebral artery impedance on the fourth day following maternal dexamethasone administration. Further basic research and clinical studies including larger sample sizes or pregnancies with fetoplacental dysfunction are needed.