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Title: Assessing and quantifying placental dysfunction in relation to pregnancy outcome in pregnancies complicated by reduced fetal movements
Author: Higgins, Lucy
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 7538
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Currently there is no test to accurately predict stillbirth. It is proposed that better identification of placental disease in utero may aid stillbirth prediction and prevention. Pregnancies complicated by reduced fetal movement (RFM) have increased risk of stillbirth. We hypothesised that RFM is a symptom of placental dysfunction associated with adverse pregnancy outcome (APO) and that this placental abnormality can be detected antenatally and used to identify fetuses at highest-risk of APO. We tested this hypothesis by: 1) comparison of ex vivo placental structure and function between APO RFM pregnancies and their normal outcome RFM counterparts, 2) comparison of in utero estimates of placental size, vascularity, vascular and endocrine functions obtained from placental ultrasound, Doppler waveform analysis and maternal circulating placentally-derived hormone concentrations, to their ex vivo correlates and 3) examination of the predictive potential of placental biomarkers at the time of RFM.Ex vivo placentas from APO RFM pregnancies, compared to normal outcome RFM counterparts, were smaller (diameter, area, weight and volume, p<0.0001), less vascular (vessel number and density, p≤0.002), with arteries that were less responsive to sodium nitroprusside (p<0.05), and with aberrant endocrine function (reduced tissue content and/or release of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), human placental lactogen (hPL) and soluble fms-like Tyrosine Kinase-1 (sFlt-1), p<0.03). Placental volume (PV) ex vivo correlated with sonographic estimated PV (p<0.004), hPL, hCG and placental growth factor (PlGF) concentrations in the maternal circulation (p<0.03). Ex vivo villous vessel number and density correlated with Doppler impedance at the umbilical artery free-loop (UAD-F, p=0.02) and intraplacental arteries (p<0.0001) respectively, whilst UAD-F impedance correlated with arterial thromboxane sensitivity (p<0.04). Examination of placental structure and function at the time of presentation with RFM identified 15 independently-predictive biomarkers. Three potential predictive models, incorporating measures of placental size (PlGF), endocrine function (sFlt-1), arterial thromboxane sensitivity and villous vascularity (UAD-F), were proposed. Using these models, sensitivity for APO was improved from 8.9% with baseline care (assessment of fetal size and gestation) to up to 37.5% at a fixed specificity of 99% (p<0.05). This series of studies shows that antenatal placental examination is possible and improves identification of pregnancies at highest risk of stillbirth in a high-risk population by up to 29%. Therefore such tests merit further development to prospectively assess their ability to predict and prevent stillbirth itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Manchester NIHR Biomedical Research Centre ; Action Medical Research
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Reduced fetal movement ; Fetal growth restriction ; Stillbirth ; Placenta ; Biomarker ; Adverse pregnancy outcome ; Ultrasound ; Doppler