Breathing movements in the human fetus cause distinct changes in Doppler flow velocity measurements at arterial, venous and cardiac levels. In adults, breathing movements result in a momentary inspiratory collapse of the inferior vena cava vessel wall. The study objective was to quantify the inferior vena cava flow velocity modulation during fetal breathing movements and to evaluate possible inferior vena cava vessel diameter changes in normal third‐trimester pregnancies. We studied 57 women after oral administration of dextrose (50 g). In 40 fetuses (n = 19, 27–32 weeks and n = 21, 36–39 weeks), fetal inferior vena cava waveforms were obtained during apnea and fetal breathing activity. In 30 fetuses (27–39 weeks) inferior vena cava vessel diameter changes were studied using the M‐mode during apnea and breathing movements. Peak and time‐averaged velocities of inferior vena cava flow velocity waveforms showed a gestational age‐independent increase of 60–160% during breathing activity. A temporary inferior vena cava vessel wall collapse (range, 50–83%) was recorded, which was significantly different from vessel diameter changes during apnea (range, 11–19%). The marked increase of inferior vena cava flow velocities is due to a raised thoraco‐abdominal pressure gradient, which may cause a reduction in vessel size and additional volume flow into the right atrium. The significance of the caval index for recognition of elevated right atrial pressure in abnormal human fetal development needs further investigation. Copyright

, , , ,,
Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Department of Gynaecology & Obstetrics

Huisman, T., van den Eijnde, S., Stewart, P., & Wladimiroff, J. (1993). Changes in inferior vena cava blood flow velocity and diameter during breathing movements in the human fetus. Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 3(1), 26–30. doi:10.1046/j.1469-0705.1993.03010026.x