Prenatal application of the individualized fetal growth reference

Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Mar 1;173(5):539-43. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwq411. Epub 2011 Jan 20.


The individualized reference for defining small for gestational age (SGA) at birth has gained popularity in recent years. However, its utility on fetal assessment has not been evaluated. The authors compare an individualized with an ultrasound reference in predicting poor perinatal outcomes. Data from a large clinical trial in predominantly white US women (1987-1991) with singleton pregnancies (n = 9,526) were used. The individualized reference classified fewer SGA fetuses than the ultrasound reference, but the risks of adverse outcomes were similar between fetuses classified by both references. The risk increased substantially only when the percentiles fell below the 5th percentile (likelihood ratio positive at birth = 2.68 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.00, 3.58) and 3.13 (95% CI: 2.34, 4.18) for ultrasound and individualized references, respectively). SGA fetuses defined by either the individualized or ultrasound reference alone had risk ratios of adverse outcomes of 1.91 (95% CI: 0.77, 4.77) and 1.18 (95% CI: 0.37, 3.77), respectively, compared with normal fetuses (the difference between these 2 risk ratios, P = 0.71). The authors conclude that neither the ultrasound-based nor the individualized reference does well in predicting adverse perinatal outcomes. The 5th percentile may be a better cutpoint than the 10th percentile in defining SGA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age*
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Reference Values
  • Research Design
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*
  • United States / epidemiology