A morphometric study of suprarenal gland development in the fetal period

Surg Radiol Anat. 2012 Sep;34(7):581-7. doi: 10.1007/s00276-012-0959-2. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


Purpose: The present study's purpose was to examine the morphometric development of the suprarenal gland using anatomic dissection methods during the fetal period.

Methods: This study was performed on 172 human fetuses (76 males and 96 females) and 344 fetal suprarenal glands obtained from ages 9-40 weeks of gestation with no external pathology or anomaly. Fetuses were divided into 4 groups between gestational ages as follows: Group 1, 9-12 weeks (first trimester); Group 2, 13-25 weeks (second trimester); Group 3, 26-37 weeks (third trimester); and Group 4, 38-40 weeks (full term). Also, the fetuses were grouped into monthly cohorts: 9-12 weeks 3rd month, 13-16 weeks 4th month, 17-20 weeks 5th month, 21-24 weeks 6th month, 25-28 weeks 7th month, 29-32 weeks 8th month, 33-36 weeks 9th month, and 37-40 weeks 10th month. The suprarenal glands were dissected in the abdominal cavity. The dimensions (width, length, and thickness), volumes and weights of the suprarenal glands were evaluated. The ratio of the fetal suprarenal gland weight/fetal body weight, the ratio of the fetal suprarenal gland volume/fetal kidney volume, and the ratio of the fetal suprarenal gland dimensions/fetal kidney dimensions were evaluated.

Results: Mean values and standard deviations of all parameters according to gestational weeks and trimesters were calculated. It is found that all parameters increase with gestational age. There was significant correlation between gestational age and all parameters (p < 0.001). No significant differences were observed between sexes for any of the parameters (p > 0.05). There was no difference between the right and left sides of parameters except the thickness of the suprarenal glands. The left suprarenal glands were thicker than the right. The ratio of suprarenal volumes to kidney volumes was determined, and we observed that the ratio decreased during the fetal period.

Conclusions: We believe that the results obtained from this study will be beneficial in understanding the development of suprarenal glands and also contribute to future studies in obstetrics, perinatology, and fetopathology.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / embryology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy