Objectives To investigate three-dimensional (3D) power Doppler ultrasound indices in the assessment of placental perfusion and their relationship to gestational age (GA), placental position and umbilical artery Doppler flow velocity waveform (FVW) patterns in normal and intrauterine growth-restricted (IUGR) pregnancies. Methods Forty-five pregnant women at 23–37 weeks' gestation were studied, of whom 30 had IUGR and 15 were controls. Nine of the IUGR group had normal umbilical FVWs (NED), nine had abnormal patterns but positive end-diastolic velocities (PED) and 12 had absent or reversed end-diastolic velocities (AED). Placental position was assessed as being posterior, anterior or lateral. 3D power Doppler indices related to placental perfusion (vascularization index (VI), vascularization flow index (VFI) and flow index (FI)) were obtained from five different sampling sites in each placenta. Results VI, VFI and FI were not significantly dependent on GA or placental position. VI and VFI were significantly lower in PED and AED cases compared with controls, while FI was reduced in the AED group only. VI and VFI showed high variability between different sampling sites within each placenta, while the variability of FI was much lower. Conclusions 3D power Doppler sonography can provide new insights into placental pathophysiology. FI, which identifies the most severe cases of placental impairment, appears to be the most reliable index because of its low intraplacental variability. Further studies are needed to verify its accuracy when applied in clinical practice as a substitute for or an adjunct to umbilical artery Doppler studies.
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