Introduction: The objective of this investigation was to study fetal thigh volume throughout gestation and explore its correlation with birth weight and neonatal body composition. This novel technique may improve birth weight prediction and lead to improved detection rates for fetal growth restriction.
Materials and methods: Fractional thigh volume (TVol) using 3D ultrasound, fetal biometry and soft tissue thickness were studied longitudinally in 42 mother-infant pairs. The percentages of neonatal body fat, fat mass and fat-free mass were determined using air displacement plethysmography. Correlation and linear regression analyses were performed.
Results: Linear regression analysis showed an association between TVol and birth weight. TVol at 33 weeks was also associated with neonatal fat-free mass. There was no correlation between TVol and neonatal fat mass. Abdominal circumference, estimated fetal weight (EFW) and EFW centile showed consistent correlations with birth weight. Thigh volume demonstrated an additional independent contribution to birth weight prediction when added to the EFW centile from the 38-week scan (p = 0.03).
Conclusion: Fractional TVol performed at 33 weeks gestation is correlated with birth weight and neonatal lean body mass. This screening test may highlight those at risk of fetal growth restriction or macrosomia.