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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Aug;30(2):173-9.

Sonographic estimation of fetal weight: comparison of bias, precision and consistency using 12 different formulae.

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Radiology Department, Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.



To determine the major sources of error in ultrasonographic assessment of fetal weight and whether they have changed over the last decade.


We performed a prospective observational study in 1991 and again in 2000 of a mixed-risk pregnancy population, estimating fetal weight within 7 days of delivery. In 1991, the Rose and McCallum formula was used for 72 deliveries. Inter- and intraobserver agreement was assessed within this group. Bland-Altman measures of agreement from log data were calculated as ratios. We repeated the study in 2000 in 208 consecutive deliveries, comparing predicted and actual weights for 12 published equations using Bland-Altman and percentage error methods. We compared bias (mean percentage error), precision (SD percentage error), and their consistency across the weight ranges.


95% limits of agreement ranged from - 4.4% to + 3.3% for inter- and intraobserver estimates, but were - 18.0% to 24.0% for estimated and actual birth weight. There was no improvement in accuracy between 1991 and 2000. In 2000 only six of the 12 published formulae had overall bias within 7% and precision within 15%. There was greater bias and poorer precision in nearly all equations if the birth weight was < 1,000 g.


Observer error is a relatively minor component of the error in estimating fetal weight; error due to the equation is a larger source of error. Improvements in ultrasound technology have not improved the accuracy of estimating fetal weight. Comparison of methods of estimating fetal weight requires statistical methods that can separate out bias, precision and consistency. Estimating fetal weight in the very low birth weight infant is subject to much greater error than it is in larger babies.

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