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Prenat Diagn. 2004 Dec 30;24(13):1049-59.

The fetal circulation.

Author information

  • 1University of Bergen, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bergen, Norway. torvid@online.no

Abstract

Accumulating data on the human fetal circulation shows the similarity to the experimental animal physiology, but with important differences. The human fetus seems to circulate less blood through the placenta, shunt less through the ductus venosus and foramen ovale, but direct more blood through the lungs than the fetal sheep. However, there are substantial individual variations and the pattern changes with gestational age. The normalised umbilical blood flow decreases with gestational age, and, at 28 to 32 weeks, a new level of development seems to be reached. At this stage, the shunting through the ductus venosus and the foramen ovale reaches a minimum, and the flow through the lungs a maximum. The ductus venosus and foramen ovale are functionally closely related and represent an important distributional unit for the venous return. The left portal branch represents a venous watershed, and, similarly, the isthmus aorta an arterial watershed. Thus, the fetal central circulation is a very flexible and adaptive circulatory system. The responses to increased afterload, hypoxaemia and acidaemia in the human fetus are equivalent to those found in animal studies: increased ductus venosus and foramen ovale shunting, increased impedance in the lungs, reduced impedance in the brain, increasingly reversed flow in the aortic isthmus and a more prominent coronary blood flow.

2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID:
15614842
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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