Fetal brain/liver volume ratio and umbilical volume flow parameters relative to normal and abnormal human development

S. Boito, P. C. Struijk, N. T C Ursem, L. Fedele, J. W. Wladimiroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To estimate fetal brain volume from head circumference and published postmortem data; to determine normal values for the fetal brain/liver volume ratio relative to gestational age; to establish the relationship between the brain/liver volume ratio and fetal circulatory parameters during normal and restricted (SGA) fetal growth. Patients and Method: This was a cross-sectional study involving a total of 47 uncomplicated pregnancies appropriate-for-gestational age (AGA) and 23 pregnancies resulting in the delivery of a SGA fetus. At enrollment gestational age ranged between 20 and 36 weeks in both groups. Umbilical venous cross-sectional area and time-averaged velocity for calculation of volume flow as well as velocity waveforms from the umbilical artery, middle cerebral artery and ductus venosus, were recorded. Fetal liver volume measurements were obtained using three-dimensional ultrasound. Fetal brain volume was estimated from fetal head volume following comparison with published postmortem data on fetal brain weight. Results: A significant correlation was observed between prenatally estimated fetal head volume and postmortem fetal brain volume. Fetal brain volume was approximately half that of fetal head volume. The normal fetal brain/liver volume ratio demonstrated a significant reduction with gestational age (R = -0.54; P <0.001). The normal mean ± standard deviation (SD) fetal brain/liver volume ratio (3.4 ± 0.7) was significantly different (P <0.001) from the mean fetal brain/liver volume ratio in the SGA group (n = 23) (5.9 ± 1.9). A significant difference existed for mean umbilical venous volume flow between AGA (104.7 ± 26.9 mL/min/kg) and SGA (59.6 ± 22.7 mL/min/kg) fetuses. In the SGA fetus, there was a significant inverse relationship (P <0.001) between fetal weight-related umbilical venous volume flow and fetal brain/liver volume ratio. In a subset of 16 SGA and 16 AGA fetuses matched for gestational age, a significant difference existed for umbilical artery pulsatility index (2.30 ± 1.52 vs. 0.99 ± 0.19), fetal middle cerebral artery pulsatility index (1.3 ± 0.4 vs. 2.1 ± 0.3) and late diastolic flow velocity in the fetal ductus venosus (6.9 ± 14.2 cm/s vs. 23.9 ± 8.8 cm/s), but not for peak systolic, early diastolic and time-averaged velocity in the ductus venosus. Conclusion: Sonographic estimates of fetal brain volume can be obtained. The fetal brain/liver volume ratio is a predictor of fetal outcome in the growth-restricted fetus. An inverse relationship exists in SGA fetuses between brain/liver volume ratio and fetal weight-related umbilical venous blood flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-261
Number of pages6
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2003


  • AGA fetus
  • Brain/liver volume ratio
  • SGA fetus
  • Umbilical venous blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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