Objective: To study the long-term effects of severely abnormal (absent or reversed diastolic) blood flow in the umbilical artery associated with fetal growth restriction on postnatal intellectual, neurologic, and social development.
Methods: Absence or reversal of diastolic blood flow in the umbilical artery was found in 38 consecutive growth-restricted fetuses as determined by biometry and Doppler ultrasound between 1988 and 1992. The 23 infants surviving the prenatal and perinatal period who could be tested were compared at school age with a group of children born at the same gestational age after normal intrauterine growth. They were tested for intellectual, neurologic, and social development by a test battery including the Kaufmann Assessment Battery for Children, Man-Drawing Test, Child Behavior Checklist, Zürich Neuromotor Test, and neuropediatric testing.
Results: Intellectual development was significantly better in the control group compared with the study group. In addition, Zürich Neuromotor testing and neuropediatric testing showed significantly better development of control children compared with the study group in 20% of the items tested. There was no detectable difference in social development as measured by the Child Behavior Checklist.
Conclusion: Severely reduced blood flow to the fetus associated with growth restriction was followed by long-term impairment of intellectual development and partial neurodevelopmental delay.