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Placenta. 1997 Jul-Aug;18(5-6):459-64.

Histological study of decidual spiral arteries and the presence of maternal erythrocytes in the intervillous space during the first trimester of normal human pregnancy.

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The Women's Hospital, Liverpool, UK.


During the first trimester in normal human pregnancy, endovascular trophoblast migrate along the decidual spiral arteries and invade their walls to produce physiological change. There is controversy as to whether invading trophoblast plug the arteries and prevent blood flow into the intervillous space. Using light microscopy, placental bed sections from 25 first trimester gravid hysterectomy specimens were examined. From each specimen, one section was divided into equal central and peripheral compartments. Maternal red blood cells were present in the intervillous space in all specimens, in both central and peripheral areas. In total, 232 decidual spiral arteries were found, each of those represented by several cross sections, 136 in the central area and 96 in the periphery. Seventy-nine per cent had undergone physiological change (significantly more in the centre than in the periphery), 63 per cent contained scattered endovascular trophoblast, 20 per cent had plugs of trophoblast partially occluding the vessel and 17 per cent had plugs totally filling the vessel lumen. These data confirm that in the first trimester of normal pregnancy, maternal blood enters the intervillous space, total plugging of the arterial system by trophoblast is not common, and more spiral arteries undergo physiological change in the centre than in the periphery.

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