NIH Develops Ultrasound Technique to Detect Fetal Circulation Issues

pregnant woman

There have been considerable research advances regarding perinatal management in recent years. Now, a team of researchers, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has developed a new technique that can help physicians detect potential issues in fetal circulation and allow for corrective action—and all by utilizing conventional ultrasound equipment, many hospitals have on hand.

“Fetal circulation” refers to the complicated process of providing the fetus with blood, oxygen, and nutrients while in the placenta. The placenta accepts the blood without oxygen from the fetus through blood vessels that leave the fetus through the umbilical cord. As the blood travels through the placenta, it absorbs oxygen, before returning to the fetus via a third vessel in the umbilical cord. When issues with fetal circulation arise, the consequences can be dire.

This new NIH-funded technique that uses ultrasound equipment relies on the subtle difference in the pulsation of fetal blood through the arteries at the fetal and placental ends of the umbilical cord. By recognizing the subtle differences, physicians are able to identify placental abnormalities, which may impair fetal blood flow. With the new technique, physicians who promptly recognize the problem are able to take corrective actions, including pre-term birth.

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