Maternal Obesity: A Potential Source of Error in Sonographic Prenatal Diagnosis

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Sonograms from 1622 consecutively scanned singleton pregnancies at a mean gestational age of 28.5 weeks were analyzed to determine whether maternal obesity affected visualization of fetal anatomy. Fetal head (cerebral ventricles), heart (four-chamber view), stomach, kidneys, bladder, diaphragm, intestines, spinal column, extremities, and umbilical cord were classified as visualized or suboptimally visualized. Maternal body mass index was used as a measure of relative leanness. No significant impairment of ultrasound visualization was noted until a body mass index above the 90th percentile, when visualization fell by an average of 14.5%. Reduction in visualization was most marked for the fetal heart, umbilical cord, and spine. Among non-obese women, advancing gestation and decreasing body mass index were the most important determinants of visualization. However, among obese women, body mass index was the best predictor of visualization, with no improvement seen with advancing gestation or duration of examination.

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