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Keywords:

  • Doppler ultrasound;
  • fetal circulation;
  • fetal venous flow;
  • fetal cardiac flow;
  • ductus venosus

Abstract

This cross-sectional study establishes reference ranges with gestation for Doppler parameters of fetal venous and atrioventriculur blood flow. Color flow Doppler was used to examine 143 normal singleton pregnancies at 20–40 weeks' gestation. Flow velocity waveforms were recorded from the ductus venosus, right hepatic vein and inferior vena cava. The waveforms are triphasic, reflecting ventricular systole, early diastole and atrial contraction. Peak velocities for these parameters were measured with pulsed Doppler and a new index, the peak velocity index for veins (PVIV), was calculated. Similarly, time-averaged maximum velocities for the whole cardiac cycle were measured and the pulsatility index for veins (PIV) was calculated. Flow velocity waveforms were also recorded at the level of the atrioventricular valves and the ratios of peak velocities at early diastolic filling (E) and atrial contraction (A) were calculated. Regression analysis was used to define the association of each measured and calculated Doppler parameter with gestational age. Blood flow velocities in the fetal veins and velocities and E/A ratios across the atrioventricular valves increased significantly with gestation, whereas PVIV and PIV decreased. Blood flow velocities were highest in the ductus venosus and lowest in the right hepatic vein, and PVIV and PIV were highest in the hepatic vein and lowest in the ductus venosus. In the ductus venosus, there was always forward flow throughout the heart cycle, whereas in the inferior vena cava and hepatic vein during atrial contraction, flow was away from or towards the heart or there was no flow. Pulsatility of flow velocity waveforms in the venous system is the consequence of changes in pressure difference between the venous system and the heart during the heart cycle. The finding that PVIV and PIV decrease with gestation is consistent with decreasing cardiac afterload and maturation of diastolic ventricular function. Copyright © 1994 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology