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The cardiac-fetal-placental unit: fetal umbilical vein flow rate is linked to the maternal cardiac profile in fetal growth restriction

Published:August 06, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2022.08.004

      Background

      The functional maternal-fetal hemodynamic unit includes fetal umbilical vein flow and maternal peripheral vascular resistance.

      Objective

      This study investigated the relationships between maternal and fetal hemodynamics in a population with suspected fetal growth restriction.

      Study Design

      This was a prospective study of normotensive pregnancies referred to our outpatient clinic for a suspected fetal growth restriction. Maternal hemodynamics measurement was performed, using a noninvasive device (USCOM-1A) and a fetal ultrasound evaluation to assess fetal biometry and velocimetry Doppler parameters. Comparisons among groups were performed with 1-way analysis of variance with Student-Newman-Keuls correction for multiple comparisons and with Kruskal-Wallis test where appropriate. The Spearman rank coefficient was used to assess the correlation between maternal and fetal hemodynamics. Pregnancies were observed until delivery.

      Results

      A total of 182 normotensive pregnancies were included. After the evaluation, 54 fetuses were classified as growth restricted, 42 as small for gestational age, and 86 as adequate for gestational age. The fetus with fetal growth restriction had significantly lower umbilical vein diameter (P<.0001), umbilical vein velocity (P=.02), umbilical vein flow (P<.0001), and umbilical vein flow corrected for fetal weight (P<.01) than adequate-for-gestational-age and small-for-gestational-age fetuses. The maternal hemodynamic profile in fetal growth restriction was characterized by elevated systemic vascular resistance and reduced cardiac output. The umbilical vein diameter was positively correlated to maternal cardiac output (rs=0.261), whereas there was a negative correlation between maternal systemic vascular resistance (rs=−0.338) and maternal potential energy–to–kinetic energy ratio (rs=−0267). The fetal umbilical vein time averaged max velocity was positively correlated to maternal cardiac output (rs=0.189) and maternal inotropy index (rs=0.162), whereas there was a negative correlation with maternal systemic vascular resistance (rs=−0.264) and maternal potential energy–to–kinetic energy ratio (rs=−0.171). The fetal umbilical vein flow and the flow corrected for estimated fetal weight were positively correlated with maternal cardiac output (rs=0.339 and rs=0.297) and maternal inotropy index (rs=0.217 and r=0.336), whereas there was a negative correlation between maternal systemic vascular resistance (rs=−0.461 and rs=−0.409) and maternal potential energy–to–kinetic energy ratio (rs=−0.336 and rs=−0.408).

      Conclusion

      Maternal and fetal hemodynamic parameters were different in the 3 groups of fetuses: fetal growth restriction, small for gestational age, and adequate for gestational age. Maternal hemodynamic parameters were closely and continuously correlated with fetal hemodynamic features. In particular, a maternal hemodynamic profile with high systemic vascular resistance, low cardiac output, reduced inotropism, and hypodynamic circulation was correlated with a reduced umbilical vein flow and increased umbilical artery pulsatility index. The mother, placenta, and fetus should be considered as a single cardiac-fetal-placental unit. The correlations of systemic vascular resistance, cardiac output, and inotropy index with umbilical artery impedance indicate the key role of these 3 parameters in placental vascular tree development. The umbilical vein flow rate and, therefore, the placental perfusion seems to be influenced not only by these three parameters but also by the maternal cardiovascular kinetic energy.

      Key words

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