Lung and heart volumes by three-dimensional ultrasound in normal fetuses at 12-32 weeks' gestation

C. F A Peralta, P. Cavoretto, B. Csapo, O. Falcon, K. H. Nicolaides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To establish reference intervals for the fetal right, left and total lung volumes and heart volume between 12 and 32 weeks of gestation. Methods: Fetal lung and heart volumes were measured using three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound in 650 normal singleton pregnancies at 12-32 weeks. The VOCAL (Virtual Organ Computer-aided AnaLysis) technique was used to obtain a sequence of six sections of each lung and the heart around a fixed axis, each after a 30° rotation from the previous one. The rotation axis for the lungs extended from the apex to the upper limit of the diaphragm dome, and the rotation axis for the heart extended from its apex to its connection to the great vessels. The contour of each of these organs was drawn manually in the six different rotation planes to obtain the 3D volume measurement. In 60 cases the fetal lungs and heart volumes were measured by the same sonographer twice and also by a second sonographer once in order to compare the measurements and calculate intra- and interobserver agreement. Results: The total lung volume and heart volume increased with gestation, from respective mean values of 1.6 and 0.6 mL at 12 weeks to 10.9 and 4.3 ml at 20 weeks and 49.3 and 26.6 mL at 32 weeks. The right to left lung volume ratio did not change significantly with gestation (median, 0.7), whereas the heart to total lung volume ratio increased with gestation from about 0.3 at 12 weeks to 0.5 at 32 weeks. In the Bland-Altman plot, the difference between paired measurements by two sonographers was, in 95% of the cases, less than 0.05, 0.5 and 1.9 mL for each lung at 12-13, 19-22 and 29-32 weeks, respectively, and the corresponding values for the heart volumes were 0.04, 0.4 and 2.3 mL. Conclusions: In normal fetuses the lung and heart volumes increase between 12 and 32 weeks of gestation. The extent to which in pathological pregnancies possible deviations in these measurements from normal prove to be useful in the prediction of outcome remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-133
Number of pages6
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • 3D ultrasound
  • Fetal heart volume
  • Fetal lung volume

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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