Fetal growth restriction is a major public health concern that can lead to short-term complications for the newborn and the development of health problems later in life. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital were awarded $3.2 million by the National Institutes of Health to develop an improved way to evaluate umbilical venous blood flow using 3D and Doppler ultrasound techniques. They aim to detect and monitor the health of small fetuses.
Fetal growth restriction increases the risk of stillbirth, problems during the newborn period, and neonatal death. Affected fetuses are also predisposed to developmental delay and the development of adult diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
“Our research team will initially validate the accuracy and reproducibility of new 3D volume flow measurements and then develop corresponding reference ranges in normal pregnancies,” said Dr. Wesley Lee, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor. “Detailed observations of fetal growth, heart function, and circulatory changes will be made in over 1,000 small fetuses with estimated weights below the tenth percentile. The results will be correlated with pregnancy outcomes to identify prenatal predictors of clinical problems in newborns.”
According to Dr. Lee, identifying the most vulnerable, small fetuses may not only influence their neonatal course, but could also have lasting impact on long-term health consequences during adult life. Researchers hope to develop 3D umbilical venous flow as a reproducible circulatory measurement that is accurate and clinically applicable, even during early pregnancy.
The five-year investigation is a collaboration between Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan, Perinatology Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and GE Healthcare.