Objective: Our purpose was to evaluate Doppler-detectable differences in the fetal circulation of discordant twins with a growth defect resulting from either placental insufficiency or twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.
Study design: Serial weekly Doppler recordings were performed for at least 3 weeks preceding delivery in 15 pairs of dichorionic twins (group A) in which the smaller twin had fetal distress (i.e., antepartum fetal heart rate late decelerations) and in 10 pairs of diamniotic and monochorionic twins (group B) in which the diagnosis of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome was confirmed postnatally. Doppler recordings were obtained from umbilical artery, descending aorta, and middle cerebral artery, and the pulsatility index values were calculated. Furthermore, peak velocity from cardiac outflow tract and the percent of reverse flow in the inferior vena cava were calculated. For all these index values the intertwin differences (delta value) were calculated by subtracting the values obtained in the larger twin with those of the smaller twin.
Results: In group A significant changes of delta values were evidenced for all the parameters tested. In particular, delta values of pulsatility index from the umbilical artery and descending aorta progressively increased approaching the occurrence of late decelerations, whereas the delta value for the middle cerebral artery reached a nadir 2 weeks before delivery. Similarly, delta values of peak velocity from outflow tracts significantly decreased, whereas those of the percent reverse flow in the inferior vena cava increased during the time considered. In group B fetuses no significant intertwin differences in pulsatility index values were evidenced in the vessels investigated, resulting in absence of modifications in delta values during the time interval considered. Moreover, significant changes were found in delta values of both the peak velocity from the outflow tract and the percent of reverse flow in the inferior vena cava. However, these changes were limited to the last recording, where the former delta value increased and the latter decreased.
Conclusions: Serial Doppler recordings may show hemodynamic changes in the fetal circulation of discordant twins. Different trends occur according to the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of the growth defect. The knowledge of these temporal changes may be useful in the management of such fetuses.