Differences in body composition and growth persist postnatally in fetuses diagnosed with severe compared to mild fetal growth restriction

Hesse, H., Palmer, C., Rigdon, C. D., Galan, H. L., Hobbins, J. C., Brown, L.D. | JNPM 2023;

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is most commonly diagnosed in pregnancy if the estimated fetal weight (EFW) is < 10th%. Those with abnormal Doppler velocimetry, indicating placental insufficiency and pathological FGR, demonstrate reduced fat and lean mass compared to both normally growing fetuses and FGR fetuses with normal Dopplers. The aim of this study was to determine how severity of FGR and abnormal Doppler velocimetry impacts neonatal body composition. Among a cohort of fetuses with an EFW < 10th%, we hypothesized that those with abnormal Dopplers and/or EFW < 3rd% would have persistent reductions in lean body mass and fat mass extending into the neonatal period compared to fetuses not meeting those criteria. METHODS: A prospective cohort of FGR fetuses with an estimated fetal weight (EFW) < 10th% was categorized as severe (EFW < 3rd% and/or abnormal Dopplers; FGR-S) versus mild (EFW 3–10th%; FGR-M). Air Displacement Plethysmography and anthropometrics were performed at birth and/or within the first 6–8 weeks of life. RESULTS: FGR-S versus FGR-M were born one week earlier (P = 0.0024), were shorter (P = 0.0033), lighter (P = 0.0001) with smaller weight-for-age Z-scores (P = 0.0004), had smaller head circumference (P = 0.0004) and lower fat mass (P = 0.01) at birth. At approximately 6–8 weeks postmenstrual age, weight, head circumference, and fat mass were similar but FGR-S neonates were shorter (P = 0.0049) with lower lean mass (P = 0.0258). CONCLUSION: Doppler velocimetry abnormalities in fetuses with an EFW < 10th% identified neonates who were smaller at birth and demonstrated catch-up growth by 6–8 weeks of life that favored fat mass accretion over lean mass and linear growth.

*Corresponding Author: 

Hilary Hesse, MD, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Department of Pediatrics, 13121 E. 17th Ave, Mail Stop 8402, Aurora, CO 80045, USA. Tel.: +1 303 724 0106; Fax: +1 303 724 0898; E-mail: hilary.hesse@childrenscolorado.org