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Fetal health assessment using prenatal diagnostic techniques

Smith, James F Jr

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: April 2008 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 152–156
doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e3282f73242
Prenatal diagnosis: Edited by Maurice L. Druzin

Purpose of review The assessment of fetal health has occupied our professional attention for many years. As the development of technologies for prenatal diagnostic techniques has progressed, applications of such technologies have aided in the overall assessment of fetal well-being.

Recent findings Fetal heart-rate monitoring remains the main form of fetal assessment for high-risk pregnancies. The additional assessments afforded by the analysis of ST and T-wave changes of the fetal electrocardiogram hold promise for improving the predictive value of fetal heart-rate assessments. Ultrasound has been invaluable for assessment of fetal anatomy, and the use of Doppler ultrasound has given insight into fetal cardiovascular responses to such conditions as intrauterine growth restriction and fetal anemia caused by red blood cell alloimmunization.

Summary As prenatal diagnostic techniques evolve, their application to the assessment of fetal well-being offers insight into pathophysiologic mechanisms of fetal disease, innovative tools to assess fetal health, and fertile ground for future investigation.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

Correspondence to James F. Smith, Jr, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Drive, HH333, Stanford, CA 94305, USA Tel: +1 650 725 8623; e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.