Objective: Our purpose was to longitudinally quantify human fetal renal blood flow.
Study design: Twenty-two normal fetuses underwent a color-pulsed Doppler evaluation of the renal artery. The Doppler waveforms were digitized to assess the velocity-time integral. The size of the vessel was determined during systole with color high-resolution two-dimensional ultrasonography. Renal blood flow was estimated by multiplying the time-velocity integral (i.e., area under the curve) by the area of the renal artery. The combined cardiac output was calculated by adding right and left inflow Doppler-derived volumes.
Results: Renal artery size, peak flow velocity, time-velocity integral, and renal blood flow significantly increased with advancing gestational age. The resistivity indexes, such as the systolic/diastolic ratio or the Pourcelot index of the fetal renal artery, did not significantly change with advancing gestational age. The pulsatility index, however, was correlated with gestational age. The percentage of the combined cardiac output to the fetal kidney remained constant throughout gestation.
Conclusions: Color pulsed Doppler can be used to visualize small and deep vascular structures in the human fetus. Renal blood flow increased with advancing gestational age. This increase seems to be related to the increase in the combined cardiac output.