OBJECTIVE: To examine the validity of a growth trajectory method to discriminate between pathologically and constitutionally undergrown fetuses using repeated measures of estimated fetal weight.
METHODS: In a prospective, observational, multicenter study in Ireland, 1,116 women with a growth-restricted fetus diagnosed participated with the objective of evaluating ultrasound findings as predictors of pediatric morbidity and mortality. Fetal growth trajectories were based on estimated fetal weight.
RESULTS: Between 22 weeks of gestation and term, two fetal growth trajectories were identified: normal (96.7%) and pathologic (3.3%). Compared with the normal trajectory, the pathologic trajectory was associated with an increased risk for preeclampsia (odds ratio [OR] 8.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.6–23.4), increased umbilical artery resistance at 30 weeks of gestation (OR 12.6, 95% CI 4.6–34.1) or 34 weeks of gestation (OR 28.0, 95% CI 8.9–87.7), reduced middle cerebral artery resistance at 30 weeks of gestation (OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.12–0.96) or 34 weeks of gestation (OR 0.14, 95% CI 0.03–0.74), lower gestational age at delivery (mean 32.02 weeks of gestation compared with 38.02 weeks of gestation; P<.001), and higher perinatal complications (OR 21.5, 95% CI 10.5–44.2). In addition, 89.2% of newborns with pathologic fetal growth were admitted to neonatal intensive care units compared with 25.9% of those with normal growth.
CONCLUSIONS: Fetal growth trajectory analysis reliably differentiated fetuses with a pathologic growth pattern among a group of women with growth-restricted fetuses. With further development, this approach could provide clarity to how we define, identify, and ultimately manage pathologic fetal growth.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II