Ultrasonographic assessment of fetal well-being during late gestation: development of an equine biophysical profile
Mares with complicated pregnancies (illness, problems at parturition or delivery of an abnormal foal, n = 30) were scanned transabdominally from 298 days gestation to term in order to measure fetal size, evaluate fetal well-being and characterise the intrauterine environment. The results of the last scan obtained prior to parturition were compared to normal data obtained from fetuses of comparable gestational age to develop a biophysical profile specific for the equine fetus. Twelve mares produced a normal foal (positive outcome) and 18 mares delivered 19 abnormal foals (negative outcome). Both fetuses that were inactive throughout the entire scan and 4 of 5 fetuses with heart rate abnormalities were abnormal at birth. Three of 4 fetuses surrounded by decreased allantoic fluid quantities had a negative outcome. All mares with large anechoic spaces between the uterus and placenta (n = 3) and/or thickened uteroplacental units (n = 5) delivered abnormal foals. There was a significant correlation between fetal aortic diameter and neonatal foal weight in these complicated pregnancies (P<0.0001, r = 0.85). Fetal aortic diameters were predicted from maternal weight and 6 fetuses had smaller than predicted aortic diameters, all with negative outcomes.
A biophysical profile of the equine fetus from 298 days gestational age to term was developed that included 6 factors related to pregnancy outcome: fetal heart rate, fetal aortic diameter, maximal fetal fluid depths, uteroplacental contact, uteroplacental thickness and fetal activity. The profile proved informative about fetal well-being, perinatal morbidity and perinatal mortality. A low score was a definite indication of an impending negative outcome; however, a high score was not assurance of a positive outcome. The utility of such a biophysical profile and future directions for research are discussed.