The usefulness of ultrasound assessment of amniotic fluid in predicting adverse outcome in prolonged pregnancy: a prospective blinded observational study

J M Morris, K Thompson, J Smithey, G Gaffney, I Cooke, P Chamberlain, P Hope, D Altman, I Z MacKenzie
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2003, 110 (11): 989-94

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a single ultrasound scan at or beyond 40 weeks of gestation to detect a single deepest pool of amniotic fluid <2 cm and amniotic fluid index (AFI) <5 cm is clinically useful in the prediction of subsequent adverse pregnancy outcome.

DESIGN: A prospective double blind cohort study.

SETTING: A university teaching hospital delivering approximately 6000 women annually.

POPULATION: One thousand and five hundred and eighty-four pregnant women at or beyond 40 weeks of gestation.

METHODS: Ultrasound assessment of liquor to detect the single deepest pool of amniotic fluid and derive the AFI at or after 40 weeks of gestation.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Perinatal death, meconium aspiration, birth asphyxia, intervention in labour for fetal distress, a cord arterial pH <7 and admission to the neonatal unit.

RESULTS: An AFI <5 cm but not a single deepest pool <2 cm was significantly associated with birth asphyxia or meconium aspiration. An AFI <5 cm was also significantly associated with caesarean section for fetal distress in labour, a cord arterial pH <7 at delivery and low Apgar scores. Despite there being a statistically significant association with adverse outcomes the sensitivity of AFI was low at 28.6%, 12% and 11.5% for major adverse outcome, fetal distress in labour or admission to the neonatal unit, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: The AFI is superior to a measure of the single deepest pool as an assessment of the fetus at or after 40 weeks but has a poor sensitivity for adverse pregnancy outcome. Routine use is likely to lead to increased obstetric intervention without improvement in perinatal outcomes.

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