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OBJECTIVE: Doppler ultrasound provides a non-invasive method for the study of the uteroplacental circulation. In normal pregnancy, impedance to flow in the uterine arteries decreases with gestation, which may be the consequence of trophoblastic invasion of the spiral arteries and their conversion into low-resistance vessels. Pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction are associated with failure of trophoblastic invasion of spiral arteries, and Doppler studies, in these conditions, have shown that impedance to flow in the uterine arteries is increased. A series of screening studies involving assessment of impedance to flow in the uterine arteries have examined the potential value of Doppler in identifying pregnancies at risk of the complications of impaired placentation. This review examines the findings of Doppler studies in unselected populations. METHODS: Searches of a computerized medical database were performed to identify relevant studies. Only those studies that provided sufficient data to allow calculation of the performance of the test were included in the analysis. Likelihood ratios were calculated for each study and are reported for pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction and perinatal death as well as for more severe forms of pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. RESULTS: The literature search identified 19 relevant studies, four of which were excluded from the further analysis. The main characteristics and results of the 15 remaining studies provided discrepant results, which may be the consequence of differences in Doppler technique for sampling, the definition of abnormal flow velocity waveform, differences in the populations examined, the gestational age at which women were studied and different criteria for the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction. Nevertheless, the studies provided evidence that increased impedance to flow in the uterine arteries is associated with increased risk for subsequent development of pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction and perinatal death. In addition, women with normal impedance to flow in the uterine arteries constituted a group that have a low risk of developing obstetric complications related to uteroplacental insufficiency. CONCLUSIONS: The review suggests that increased impedance to flow in the uterine arteries in pregnancies attending for routine antenatal care identifies about 40% of those who subsequently develop pre-eclampsia and about 20% of those who develop fetal growth restriction. Following a positive test, the likelihood of these complications is increased by about 6 and 3.5 times, respectively.

Original publication

DOI

10.1080/jmf.12.2.78.88

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med

Publication Date

08/2002

Volume

12

Pages

78 - 88

Keywords

Female, Fetal Growth Retardation, Humans, Placenta, Pre-Eclampsia, Predictive Value of Tests, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Trimester, Second, Ultrasonography, Doppler, Uterus