Reduced fetal growth velocity precedes antepartum fetal death

P. Pacora, R. Romero, E. Jung, D. W. Gudicha, E. Hernandez-Andrade, I. Musilova, M. Kacerovsky, S. Jaiman, O. Erez, C. D. Hsu, A. L. Tarca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine whether decreased fetal growth velocity precedes antepartum fetal death and to evaluate whether fetal growth velocity is a better predictor of antepartum fetal death compared to a single fetal biometric measurement at the last available ultrasound scan prior to diagnosis of demise. Methods: This was a retrospective, longitudinal study of 4285 singleton pregnancies in African-American women who underwent at least two fetal ultrasound examinations between 14 and 32 weeks of gestation and delivered a liveborn neonate (controls; n = 4262) or experienced antepartum fetal death (cases; n = 23). Fetal death was defined as death diagnosed at ≥ 20 weeks of gestation and confirmed by ultrasound examination. Exclusion criteria included congenital anomaly, birth at < 20 weeks of gestation, multiple gestation and intrapartum fetal death. The ultrasound examination performed at the time of fetal demise was not included in the analysis. Percentiles for estimated fetal weight (EFW) and individual biometric parameters were determined according to the Hadlock and Perinatology Research Branch/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (PRB/NICHD) fetal growth standards. Fetal growth velocity was defined as the slope of the regression line of the measurement percentiles as a function of gestational age based on two or more measurements in each pregnancy. Results: Cases had significantly lower growth velocities of EFW (P < 0.001) and of fetal head circumference, biparietal diameter, abdominal circumference and femur length (all P < 0.05) compared to controls, according to the PRB/NICHD and Hadlock growth standards. Fetuses with EFW growth velocity < 10th percentile of the controls had a 9.4-fold and an 11.2-fold increased risk of antepartum death, based on the Hadlock and customized PRB/NICHD standards, respectively. At a 10% false-positive rate, the sensitivity of EFW growth velocity for predicting antepartum fetal death was 56.5%, compared to 26.1% for a single EFW percentile evaluation at the last available ultrasound examination, according to the customized PRB/NICHD standard. Conclusions: Given that 74% of antepartum fetal death cases were not diagnosed as small-for-gestational age (EFW < 10th percentile) at the last ultrasound examination when the fetuses were alive, alternative approaches are needed to improve detection of fetuses at risk of fetal death. Longitudinal sonographic evaluation to determine growth velocity doubles the sensitivity for prediction of antepartum fetal death compared to a single EFW measurement at the last available ultrasound examination, yet the performance is still suboptimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-952
Number of pages11
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • abdominal circumference
  • biparietal diameter
  • customized growth standard
  • head circumference
  • small-for-gestational age
  • stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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