Fetal intima-media thickness (IMT) has been suggested as a marker of pre-clinical atherosclerosis, and maternal IMT could be altered through dynamic circumstances related to pregnancy. We investigated the feasibility of measurement of IMT at four pre-defined fetal and four pre-defined maternal arterial locations to determine vascular changes that could be associated with impaired vascular function. IMT was measured from the first to third trimester (12-34 wk), in 38 low-risk pregnancies. We imaged a 10-mm region of interest using a Mindray (Shenzhen, China) high-resolution ultrasound machine with automated IMT measurement software. Fetal abdominal aorta IMT was measurable during the second trimester in 71% and during the third trimester in 100% of the case, and umbilical artery IMT was measurable in 50% and 82% of cases during the second and third trimesters, respectively. Fetal IMT measurements were not possible during the first trimester. It was not often feasible to measure the IMT of the fetal common carotid artery, fetal renal artery and maternal iliac artery (maximal 20% of cases). Maternal common carotid artery, abdominal aorta and uterine artery IMTs were measurable throughout pregnancy. There was a significant relation between gestational age and IMT in the umbilical artery (p = 0.03) and a significant relation between body mass index and IMT in the maternal common carotid artery (p = 0.01). IMT measurements are feasible in some maternal and fetal vessels of interest. Further studies are underway to obtain more insight into vascular development during normal and pathologic pregnancies.
Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, 2014, Vol 40, Issue 9, p. 1949-57