Screening and triage of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) in general population and high risk pregnancies: a systematic review with a focus on reduction of IUGR related stillbirths

BMC Public Health. 2011 Apr 13;11 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):S1. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-S3-S1.


Background: There is a strong association between stillbirth and fetal growth restriction. Early detection and management of IUGR can lead to reduce related morbidity and mortality. In this paper we have reviewed effectiveness of fetal movement monitoring and Doppler velocimetry for the detection and surveillance of high risk pregnancies and the effect of this on prevention of stillbirths. We have also reviewed effect of maternal body mass index (BMI) screening, symphysial-fundal height measurement and targeted ultrasound in detection and triage of IUGR in the community.

Methods: We systematically reviewed all published literature to identify studies related to our interventions. We searched PubMed, Cochrane Library, and all World Health Organization Regional Databases and included publications in any language. Quality of available evidence was assessed using GRADE criteria. Recommendations were made for the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) based on rules developed by the Child Health Epidemiology Group. Given the paucity of evidence related to the effect of detection and management of IUGR on stillbirths, we undertook Delphi based evaluation from experts in the field.

Results: There was insufficient evidence to recommend against or in favor of routine use of fetal movement monitoring for fetal well being. (1) Detection and triage of IUGR with the help of (1a) maternal BMI screening, (1b) symphysial-fundal height measurement and (1c) targeted ultrasound can be an effective method of reducing IUGR related perinatal morbidity and mortality. Pooled results from sixteen studies shows that Doppler velocimetry of umbilical and fetal arteries in 'high risk' pregnancies, coupled with the appropriate intervention, can reduce perinatal mortality by 29 % [RR 0.71, 95 % CI 0.52-0.98]. Pooled results for impact on stillbirth showed a reduction of 35 % [RR 0.65, 95 % CI 0.41-1.04]; however, the results did not reach the conventional limits of statistical significance. This intervention could be potentially recommended for high income settings or middle income countries with improving rates and standards of facility based care. Based on the Delphi, a combination of screening with maternal BMI, Symphysis fundal height and targeted ultrasound followed by the appropriate management could potentially reduce antepartum and intrapartum stillbirth by 20% respectively. This estimate is presently being recommended for inclusion in the LiST.

Conclusion: There is insufficient evidence to recommend in favor or against fetal movement counting for routine use for testing fetal well being. Doppler velocimetry of umbilical and fetal arteries and appropriate intervention is associated with 29 % (95 % CI 2% to 48 %) reduction in perinatal mortality. Expert opinion suggests that detection and management of IUGR with the help of maternal BMI, symphysial-fundal height measurement and targeted ultrasound could be effective in reducing IUGR related stillbirths by 20%.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Death / prevention & control
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / mortality
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk*
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Triage