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Development of the utero-placental circulation in cesarean scar pregnancies: a case-control study

Published:September 04, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2021.08.056

      Background

      Cesarean scar pregnancies carry a high risk of pregnancy complications including placenta previa with antepartum hemorrhage, placenta accreta spectrum, and uterine rupture.

      Objective

      To evaluate the development of utero-placental circulation in the first half of pregnancy in ongoing cesarean scar pregnancies and compare it with pregnancies implanted in the lower uterine segment above a previous cesarean delivery scar with no evidence of placenta accreta spectrum at delivery

      Study Design

      This was a retrospective case-control study conducted in 2 tertiary referral centers. The study group included 27 women who were diagnosed with a live cesarean scar pregnancy in the first trimester of pregnancy and who elected to conservative management. The control group included 27 women diagnosed with an anterior low-lying placenta or placenta previa at 19 to 22 weeks of gestation who had first and early second trimester ultrasound examinations. In both groups, the first ultrasound examination was carried out at 6 to 10 weeks to establish the pregnancy location, viability, and to confirm the gestational age. The utero-placental and intraplacental vasculatures were examined using color Doppler imaging and were described semiquantitatively using a score of 1 to 4. The remaining myometrial thickness was recorded in the study group, whereas the ultrasound features of a previous cesarean delivery scar including the presence of a niche were noted in the controls. Both the cesarean scar pregnancies and the controls had ultrasound examinations at 11 to 14 and 19 to 22 weeks of gestation.

      Results

      The mean color Doppler imaging vascularity score in the ultrasound examination at 6 to 10 weeks was significantly (P<.001) higher in the cesarean scar pregnancy group than in the controls. High vascularity scores of 3 and 4 were recorded in 20 of 27 (74%) cases of the cesarean scar pregnancy group. There was no vascularity score of 4, and only 3 of 27 (11%) controls had a vascularity score of 3. In 15 of the 27 (55.6%) cesarean scar pregnancies, the residual myometrial thickness was <2 mm. In the ultrasound examination at 11 to 14 weeks, there was no significant difference between the groups in the number of cases with an increased subplacental vascularity. However, 12 cesarean scar pregnancies (44%) presented with 1 or more placental lacunae whereas there was no case with lacunae in the controls. Of the 18 cesarean scar pregnancies that progressed into the third trimester, 10 of them were diagnosed with placenta previa accreta at birth, including 4 creta and 6 increta. In the 19 to 22 weeks ultrasound examination, 8 of the 10 placenta accreta spectrum patients presented with subplacental hypervascularity, out of which 6 showed placental lacunae.

      Conclusion

      The vascular changes in the utero-placental and intervillous circulations in cesarean scar pregnancies are due to the loss of the normal uterine structure in the scar area and the development of placental tissue in proximity of large diameter arteries of the outer uterine wall. The intensity of these vascular changes, the development of placenta accreta spectrum, and the risk of uterine rupture are probably related to the residual myometrial thickness of the scar defect at the start of pregnancy. A better understanding of the pathophysiology of the utero-placental vascular changes associated with cesarean scar pregnancies should help in identifying those cases that may develop major complications. It will contribute to providing counseling for women about the risks associated with different management strategies.

      Key words

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