Second-trimester echogenic bowel and intraamniotic bleeding: Association between fetal bowel echogenicity and amniotic fluid spectrophotometry at 410 nm


      OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to determine whether the presence of heme pigments in amniotic fluid is associated with the ultrasonographic findings of increased fetal bowel echogenicity in the second trimester. STUDY DESIGN: Spectrophotometric analysis of amniotic fluid for optical density at 410 nm was prospectively performed to study the presence of heme pigments in (1) 104 pregnancies undergoing second-trimester amniocentesis for routine cytogenetic indications and (2) in 14 pregnancies undergoing amniocentesis for prenatal karyotyping because of fetal strongly echogenic bowel. In the routine amniocentesis group the fetal small bowel echogenicity was assessed immediately before amniocentesis and classified as nonechogenic (n = 64), mildly echogenic (n = 36), or hyperechogenic (n = 4) with the fetal iliac wing and liver used as references. Only amniotic fluid specimens that were obtained at the first attempt and that were not blood-stained were included in this study, with the first milliliter being discarded in all samples. RESULTS: In the routine amniocentesis group abnormal amniotic fluid optical density readings were significantly more frequent in fetuses with increased bowel echogenicity compared with those with nonechogenic bowel (8/40 [20%] vs 3/64 [5%], respectively; p < 0.001). In the hyperechogenic bowel group abnormal amniotic fluid optical density readings were found in four samples (29%). Overall, 12 of 54 fetuses (22%) with increased bowel echogenicity had a detectable peak at 410 nm. Three of the 12 (25%) fetuses with echogenic bowel and positive readings for hemoglobin were chromosomally abnormal. CONCLUSIONS: Fetal small bowel echogenicity is associated with the presence of heme pigments in amniotic fluid as determined by amniotic fluid optical density at 410 nm. Swallowing of amniotic fluid after intraamniotic bleeding seems implicated in the etiology of second-trimester echogenic bowel in both euploid and aneuploid fetuses. (AM J OBSTET GYNECOL 1996;174:839-42.)


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