Assessment of first-trimester utero-placental vascular morphology by 3D power Doppler ultrasound image analysis using a skeletonization algorithm: the Rotterdam Periconception Cohort

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Abstract

STUDY QUESTION Can three-dimensional (3D) Power Doppler (PD) ultrasound and a skeletonization algorithm be used to assess first-trimester development of the utero-placental vascular morphology? SUMMARY ANSWER The application of 3D PD ultrasonography and a skeletonization algorithm facilitates morphologic assessment of utero-placental vascular development in the first trimester and reveals less advanced vascular morphologic development in pregnancies with placenta-related complications than in pregnancies without placenta-related complications. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Suboptimal development of the utero-placental vasculature is one of the main contributors to the periconceptional origin of placenta-related complications. The nature and attribution of aberrant vascular structure and branching patterns remain unclear, as validated markers monitoring first-trimester utero-placental vascular morphologic development are lacking. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION In this prospective observational cohort, 214 ongoing pregnancies were included before 10 weeks gestational age (GA) at a tertiary hospital between January 2017 and July 2018, as a subcohort of the ongoing Rotterdam Periconception Cohort study. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS By combining 3D PD ultrasonography and virtual reality, utero-placental vascular volume (uPVV) measurements were obtained at 7, 9 and 11 weeks GA. A skeletonization algorithm was applied to the uPVV measurements to generate the utero-placental vascular skeleton (uPVS), a network-like structure containing morphologic characteristics of the vasculature. Quantification of vascular morphology was performed by assigning a morphologic characteristic to each voxel in the uPVS (end-, vessel-, bifurcation- or crossing-point) and calculating total vascular network length. A Mann-Whitney U test was performed to investigate differences in morphologic development of the first-trimester utero-placental vasculature between pregnancies with and without placenta-related complications. Linear mixed models were used to estimate trajectories of the morphologic characteristics in the first trimester. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE All morphologic characteristics of the utero-placental vasculature increased significantly in the first trimester (P < 0.005). In pregnancies with placenta-related complications (n = 54), utero-placental vascular branching was significantly less advanced at 9 weeks GA (vessel points P = 0.040, bifurcation points P = 0.050, crossing points P = 0.020, total network length P = 0.023). Morphologic growth trajectories remained similar after adjustment for parity, conception mode, foetal sex and occurrence of placenta-related complications. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The tertiary setting of this prospective observational study provides high internal, but possibly limited external, validity. Extrapolation of the study's findings should therefore be addressed with caution. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The uPVS enables assessment of morphologic development of the first-trimester utero-placental vasculature. Further investigation of this innovative methodology needs to determine its added value for the assessment of (patho-) physiological utero-placental vascular development. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This research was funded by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. There are no conflicts of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdea202
Pages (from-to)2532-2545
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Reproduction
Volume37
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding
This research was funded by the Department of Obstetrics and
Gynecology of the Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre,
Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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