Reference ranges of blood flow in the major vessels of the normal human fetal circulation at term by phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging

Milan Prsa, Liqun Sun, Joshua Van Amerom, Shi Joon Yoo, Lars Grosse-Wortmann, Edgar Jaeggi, Christopher MacGowan, Mike Seed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Background-Phase-contrast MRI with metric-optimized gating is a promising new technique for studying the distribution of the fetal circulation. However, mean and reference ranges for blood fow measurements made in the major fetal vessels using this technique are yet to be established. Methods and Results-We measured fow in the major vessels of the fetal circulation in 40 late-gestation normal human fetuses using phase-contrast MRI (mean gestational age, 37 [SD=1.1] weeks). Flows were indexed to the fetal weight, which was estimated from the fetal volume calculated by MRI segmentation. The following mean fows (in mL/min per kilogram; ±2SD) were obtained: combined ventricular output, 465 (351, 579); main pulmonary artery, 261 (169, 353); ascending aorta, 191 (121, 261); superior vena cava, 137 (77, 197); ductus arteriosus, 187 (109, 265); descending aorta, 252 (160, 344); pulmonary blood fow, 77 (0, 160); umbilical vein, 134 (62, 206); and foramen ovale, 135 (37, 233). Expressed as percentages of the combined ventricular output, the mean fows±2 SD were as follows: main pulmonary artery, 56 (44, 68); ascending aorta, 41 (29, 53); superior vena cava, 29 (15, 43); ductus arteriosus, 41 (25, 57); descending aorta, 55 (35, 75); pulmonary blood fow, 16 (0, 34); umbilical vein, 29 (11, 47); and foramen ovale, 29 (7, 51). A strong inverse relationship between foramen ovale shunt and pulmonary blood fow was noted (r=-0.64; P<0.0001). Conclusions-Although too small a sample size to provide normal ranges, these results are in keeping with those predicted in humans based on measurements made in fetal lambs using radioactive microspheres and provide preliminary reference ranges for the late-gestation human fetuses. The wide range we found in foramen ovale shunting suggests a degree of variability in the way blood is streamed through the fetal circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-670
Number of pages8
JournalCirculation: Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Pediatrics
  • Regional blood fow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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