Reference Ranges of Blood Flow in the Major Vessels of the Normal Human Fetal Circulation at Term by Phase-Contrast Magnetic Resonance ImagingCLINICAL PERSPECTIVE
Background—Phase-contrast MRI with metric-optimized gating is a promising new technique for studying the distribution of the fetal circulation. However, mean and reference ranges for blood flow measurements made in the major fetal vessels using this technique are yet to be established.
Methods and Results—We measured flow in the major vessels of the fetal circulation in 40 late-gestation normal human fetuses using phase-contrast MRI (mean gestational age, 37 [SD=1.1] weeks). Flows were indexed to the fetal weight, which was estimated from the fetal volume calculated by MRI segmentation. The following mean flows (in mL/min per kilogram; ±2SD) were obtained: combined ventricular output, 465 (351, 579); main pulmonary artery, 261 (169, 353); ascending aorta, 191 (121, 261); superior vena cava, 137 (77, 197); ductus arteriosus, 187 (109, 265); descending aorta, 252 (160, 344); pulmonary blood flow, 77 (0, 160); umbilical vein, 134 (62, 206); and foramen ovale, 135 (37, 233). Expressed as percentages of the combined ventricular output, the mean flows±2 SD were as follows: main pulmonary artery, 56 (44, 68); ascending aorta, 41 (29, 53); superior vena cava, 29 (15, 43); ductus arteriosus, 41 (25, 57); descending aorta, 55 (35, 75); pulmonary blood flow, 16 (0, 34); umbilical vein, 29 (11, 47); and foramen ovale, 29 (7, 51). A strong inverse relationship between foramen ovale shunt and pulmonary blood flow was noted (r=−0.64; P<0.0001).
Conclusions—Although too small a sample size to provide normal ranges, these results are in keeping with those predicted in humans based on measurements made in fetal lambs using radioactive microspheres and provide preliminary reference ranges for the late-gestation human fetuses. The wide range we found in foramen ovale shunting suggests a degree of variability in the way blood is streamed through the fetal circulation.
- Received October 16, 2013.
- Accepted May 23, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.