Malhotra A, Ditchfield M, Fahey MC, Castillo-Melendez M, Allison BJ, Polglase GR, Wallace EM, Hodges R, Jenkin G, Miller SL. Detection and assessment of brain injury in the growth-restricted fetus and neonate.Pediatr Res. 2017 Aug;82(2):184-193. doi: 10.1038/pr.2017.37
Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is a common complication of pregnancy and, in severe cases, is associated with elevated rates of perinatal mortality, neonatal morbidity, and poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. The leading cause of FGR is placental insufficiency, with the placenta failing to adequately meet the increasing oxygen and nutritional needs of the growing fetus with advancing gestation. The resultant chronic fetal hypoxia induces a decrease in fetal growth, and a redistribution of blood flow preferentially to the brain. However, this adaptation does not ensure normal brain development. Early detection of brain injury in FGR, allowing for the prediction of short- and long-term neurodevelopmental consequences, remains a significant challenge. Furthermore, in FGR infants the detection and diagnosis of neuropathology is complicated by preterm birth, the etiological heterogeneity of FGR, timing of onset of growth restriction, its severity, and coexisting complications. In this review, we examine existing and emerging diagnostic tools from human and preclinical studies for the detection and assessment of brain injury in FGR fetuses and neonates. Increased detection rates, and early detection of brain injury associated with FGR, will offer opportunities for developing and assessing interventions to improve long-term outcomes.