Objective: To assess the value of different admission tests in predicting the outcome of small-for-gestational age (SGA) fetuses with normal Doppler waveforms in the umbilical artery.
Methods: Criteria for admission into this retrospective study included: singleton pregnancy with a birth weight < 10th centile; absence of severe maternal complications; no evidence of fetal anomalies on the sonogram; normal umbilical artery Doppler; and availability of complete follow-up. At the first antenatal sonogram classifying the fetus as SGA, Doppler analysis of the uterine and middle cerebral arteries was performed and amniotic fluid volume was assessed. Outcome variables included adverse perinatal outcome (perinatal death, severe morbidity) and emergency Cesarean section for fetal distress.
Results: Two hundred and thirty-one pregnancies were included in the study. The mean +/- standard deviation birth weight and gestational age at delivery were 2222 +/- 502 g and 37.3 +/- 2.9 weeks, respectively. In 37 cases (16%), an emergency Cesarean section was performed. There was one intrauterine death and three fetuses delivered by emergency Cesarean section developed severe morbidity. Logistic regression demonstrated that abnormal velocimetry of the uterine arteries and fetal middle cerebral artery were independently correlated with the occurrence of Cesarean section.
Conclusions: SGA fetuses with normal umbilical artery Doppler waveforms and abnormal uterine arteries and fetal middle cerebral artery waveforms have an increased risk of developing distress and being delivered by emergency Cesarean section. Particularly when both uterine and fetal cerebral waveforms are altered at the same time, the risk is exceedingly high (86%) and delivery as soon as fetal maturity is achieved seems advisable. On the other hand, when both vessels have normal waveforms, the chances of fetal distress are small (4%) and expectant management is the most reasonable choice.