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Pediatr Res. 2006 Jan;59(1):33-8. Epub 2005 Dec 2.

Biometry of face and brain in fetuses with trisomy 21.

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  • 1CNRS, UPR, Paris, France.


The aim of this study was to specify the early setting of the particular craniofacial morphology in Down syndrome during the fetal period from data based on postmortem examinations. The study included 1277 fetuses at 15-38 gestational weeks (GW): 922 control fetuses and 355 fetuses with trisomy 21, selected from fetopathology units in Paris. Body weight (BW) and nine dimensions of the face, skull, and brain were recorded: the outer and inner canthal distances (OCD, ICD), biparietal diameter (BPD), head circumference (HC), brain weight (BrW), occipitofrontal diameters of left and right hemispheres (lOFD, rOFD), weight of the infratentorial part of the brain (IBW), and maximal transversal diameter of the cerebellum (CTD). Four ratios were computed: BPD/HC, OCD/BPD, BrW/BW, IBW/BrW. Differences between trisomic fetuses and control fetuses were tested by age interval. Results showed that BW, rOFD, and lOFD were lower in trisomic fetuses as early as 15 GW. Cerebellar hypoplasia included lower IBW and CTD in trisomic fetuses. The IBW/BrW ratio was higher in trisomic fetuses, showing that growth restriction affected the infratentorial part of the brain less than the supratentorial part. Early brachycephaly was found in trisomic fetuses, with higher values of BPD and BPD/HC from 15 GW. ICD and OCD were not significantly different in the two groups, but OCD/DBP ratio was lower in trisomic fetuses. These results confirm the early phenotypical expression of trisomy 21 on craniofacial morphology, associated with a marked restriction of brain growth, especially in the supratentorial part.

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