The association between fetal Doppler and admission to neonatal unit at term

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Jul;213(1):57.e1-57.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.10.013. Epub 2014 Oct 15.


Objective: Fetal cerebroplacental ratio is emerging as a better proxy than birthweight for placental insufficiency and as a marker of fetal compromise at term. The extent to which these fetal Doppler changes are related to neonatal outcomes has not been systematically assessed. The main aim of this study was to evaluate the association between estimated fetal weight percentile, cerebroplacental ratio recorded at 34(+0)-35(+6) weeks' gestation, and neonatal unit admission at term.

Study design: This was a retrospective cohort study in a tertiary referral center over an 11 year period from 2002 to 2012. The umbilical artery pulsatility index (PI), middle cerebral artery PI, and cerebroplacental ratio were recorded at 34(+0)-35(+6) weeks. Weight values were converted into percentiles and Doppler parameters into multiples of the median (MoM), adjusting for gestational age. Logistic regression analysis was performed to identify, and adjust for, potential confounders.

Results: We identified 2518 pregnancies in which a scan was performed at 34(+0)-35(+6) weeks and delivery occurred at or beyond 37 weeks. In the 2485 pregnancies included in the analysis, the umbilical artery PI MoM was significantly higher, and the middle cerebral artery PI and cerebroplacental ratio MoM significantly lower in the babies requiring neonatal unit admission (P < .05). However, the estimated fetal weight percentile was not significantly different between those who required neonatal unit admission and those who did not (P = .087). According to multivariate logistic regression, cerebroplacental ratio MoM (odds ratio, 0.39; 95% confidence interval, 0.19-0.79; P = .008) and gestational age at delivery (odds ratio, 0.70; 95% confidence interval, 0.61-0.80; P < .001) were significantly associated with the risk of neonatal unit admission, whereas maternal age and birthweight percentile were not (P = .183 and P = .460, respectively). Irrespective of birthweight or estimated fetal weight percentile, the fetal cerebroplacental ratio appears to be a better predictor of the need for neonatal unit admission (P < .001).

Conclusion: Lower cerebroplacental ratio and gestational age at delivery, but not fetal size, were independently associated with the need for admission to the neonatal unit at term in a high-risk patient group. The extent to which fetal hemodynamic assessment could be used to predict perinatal morbidity and optimize the timing of delivery merits further investigation.

Keywords: Doppler; birthweight; cerebroplacental ratio; neonatal unit admission; small for gestational age.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Distress / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*
  • Umbilical Arteries / diagnostic imaging