Growth patterns and cardiovascular abnormalities in small for gestational age fetuses: 1. Pattern characteristics

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2021 Sep;34(18):3029-3038. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2019.1677592. Epub 2019 Oct 21.


Background: Fetal growth restriction is being defined as either "early" or "late" depending on age of onset. A recent investigation using individualized assessment has identified five different growth restriction patterns. No previous study has related these patterns to cardiovascular abnormalities.

Objectives: To determine growth patterns in small fetuses (BW < 10th percentile) using Individualized Growth Assessment (IGA) and to relate cardiovascular abnormalities found with Doppler ultrasound to these patterns.

Study design: A secondary analysis was carried out in 126 fetuses from the PORTO data set having both estimated weights and birth weights below the 10th percentile. Only fetuses with 2nd and 3rd trimester biometry scans appropriate for IGA and cardiovascular assessments were studied. There was one-to-one matching of biometry and Doppler evaluations in the 3rd trimester. Composite growth parameters were used to quantify growth pathology at individual time points (individual composite Prenatal Growth Assessment Score (icPGAS)) and during the 3rd trimester (Fetal Growth Pathology Score {FGPS1}). Normal and growth restriction patterns were identified using plots of FGPS1 values. Doppler measurements were classified as normal or abnormal based on published cross-sectional standards. Outcome variables were birth weight and birth age.

Results: In these SGA cases, 38.2% showed normal fetal growth and 61.8% had growth restriction. In the latter, seven different patterns were observed. Pattern 1 was most common (43.5%), followed by Patterns 5 (16.7%), 2 (15.4%) and 3 (14.1%). The characteristics of Pattern 1 indicated progressive growth restriction while Pattern 5 demonstrated recovery from an initial growth abnormality. Cardiovascular abnormalities were quite variable, with those in the umbilical artery being most frequent in Patterns 1 and 3. Pattern 2 had the highest incidence of middle cerebral artery abnormalities. Umbilical artery abnormalities were similar in the Normal and Pattern 5 groups as were those for the middle cerebral artery. Other cardiovascular abnormalities had low frequencies except in Pattern 2 where the ductus venosus incidence was high. Abnormally small neonates, as identified with IGA, were seen primarily in Patterns 1, 3 and 6 (80-88%). Premature deliveries occurred most frequently in Pattern 1 (56%), followed by Pattern 2 (33%).

Conclusions: Growth in this SGA Group was very heterogeneous with a significant proportion of these small fetuses growing normally. Growth restriction did not appear to be a single process but was manifest as seven different FGPS1 patterns. Both growth pathology and cardiovascular abnormalities differed among patterns. Further investigation will be required to determine how specific growth abnormalities are related to fetal cardiovascular changes over time.

Keywords: Doppler ultrasound; hemodynamic changes; individualized growth assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Abnormalities*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Fetus / diagnostic imaging
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*
  • Umbilical Arteries / diagnostic imaging