Venous Doppler in the prediction of acid-base status of growth-restricted fetuses with elevated placental blood flow resistance

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This study was undertaken to test which venous Doppler parameter offers the best prediction of acid-base status at birth in pregnancies complicated by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) caused by placental dysfunction.

Study design

A prospective cross-sectional Doppler study of IUGR fetuses with abnormal umbilical artery Doppler and birth weight less than the 10th percentile. Absence of atrial systolic forward velocities in the ductus venosus (DV) (DV-RAV) and umbilical vein (UV) pulsations were noted and multiple venous indices were calculated for the inferior vena cava (IVC) and DV (IVC and DV preload index, peak velocity index [PVIV] and pulsatility index [PIV] and the DV S/a ratio). Doppler indices, UV pulsations, and DV- RAV were related to an umbilical artery cord pH < 7.20, and a pH < 7.00 and/or base deficit greater than −13 (severe metabolic compromise) in neonates delivered by cesarean section without labor.


In 122 fetuses all venous Doppler indices were equally predictive of a pH < 7.20, with the exception of the IVC PVIV. No Doppler index predicted severe metabolic compromise. Bayesian analysis of individual Doppler parameters showed comparable outcome prediction with the highest sensitivity for the IVC PIV (76%) and the highest specificity for DV-RAV (96%). Combined assessment of the IVC, DV, and UV provided the most accurate outcome prediction. Doppler abnormality in either vessel identified 89% of neonates with pH < 7.20 (negative predictive value 92%) and 10 of 11 neonates with severe metabolic compromise. Prediction was most specific (84%) when Doppler parameters were abnormal in all 3 vessels.


IVC, DV, and UV Doppler parameters correctly predict acid-base status in a significant proportion of IUGR neonates. Combination, rather than single vessel assessment provides the best predictive accuracy. While the choice of Doppler index can be guided by operator preference, familiarity with the examination technique of all 3 vessels is encouraged to offer the highest flexibility in clinical practice.

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