Mid-gestation brain Doppler and head biometry in fetuses with congenital heart disease predict abnormal brain development at birth

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Jan;47(1):65-73. doi: 10.1002/uog.14919.


Objectives: Fetuses with congenital heart disease (CHD) show evidence of abnormal brain development before birth, which is thought to contribute to adverse neurodevelopment during childhood. Our aim was to evaluate whether brain development in late pregnancy can be predicted by fetal brain Doppler, head biometry and the clinical form of CHD at the time of diagnosis.

Methods: This was a prospective cohort study including 58 fetuses with CHD, diagnosed at 20-24 weeks' gestation, and 58 normal control fetuses. At the time of diagnosis, we recorded fetal head circumference (HC), biparietal diameter, middle cerebral artery pulsatility index (MCA-PI), cerebroplacental ratio (CPR) and brain perfusion by fractional moving blood volume. We classified cases into one of two clinical types defined by the expected levels (high or low) of placental (well-oxygenated) blood perfusion, according to the anatomical defect. All fetuses underwent subsequent 3T-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 36-38 weeks' gestation.

Results: Abnormal prenatal brain development was defined by a composite score including any of the following findings on MRI: total brain volume < 10(th) centile, parietoccipital or cingulate fissure depth < 10(th) centile or abnormal metabolic profile in the frontal lobe. Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that MCA-PI (odds ratio (OR), 12.7; P = 0.01), CPR (OR, 8.7; P = 0.02) and HC (OR, 6.2; P = 0.02) were independent predictors of abnormal neurodevelopment; however, the clinical type of CHD was not.

Conclusions: Fetal brain Doppler and head biometry at the time of CHD diagnosis are independent predictors of abnormal brain development at birth, and could be used in future algorithms to improve counseling and targeted interventions. Copyright © 2015 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords: congenital heart disease; fetal neurodevelopment; pediatrics; pregnancy; prenatal brain remodeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / abnormalities*
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cephalometry
  • Cohort Studies
  • Echocardiography
  • Echoencephalography
  • Female
  • Head / anatomy & histology
  • Head / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Nervous System Malformations / complications
  • Nervous System Malformations / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nervous System Malformations / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulsatile Flow
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal