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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a single ultrasound scan at or beyond 40 weeks of gestation to detect a single deepest pool of amniotic fluid <2 cm and amniotic fluid index (AFI) <5 cm is clinically useful in the prediction of subsequent adverse pregnancy outcome. DESIGN: A prospective double blind cohort study. SETTING: A university teaching hospital delivering approximately 6000 women annually. POPULATION: One thousand and five hundred and eighty-four pregnant women at or beyond 40 weeks of gestation. METHODS: Ultrasound assessment of liquor to detect the single deepest pool of amniotic fluid and derive the AFI at or after 40 weeks of gestation. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Perinatal death, meconium aspiration, birth asphyxia, intervention in labour for fetal distress, a cord arterial pH <7 and admission to the neonatal unit. RESULTS: An AFI <5 cm but not a single deepest pool <2 cm was significantly associated with birth asphyxia or meconium aspiration. An AFI <5 cm was also significantly associated with caesarean section for fetal distress in labour, a cord arterial pH <7 at delivery and low Apgar scores. Despite there being a statistically significant association with adverse outcomes the sensitivity of AFI was low at 28.6%, 12% and 11.5% for major adverse outcome, fetal distress in labour or admission to the neonatal unit, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The AFI is superior to a measure of the single deepest pool as an assessment of the fetus at or after 40 weeks but has a poor sensitivity for adverse pregnancy outcome. Routine use is likely to lead to increased obstetric intervention without improvement in perinatal outcomes.


Journal article



Publication Date





989 - 994


Adult, Amniotic Fluid, Asphyxia Neonatorum, Cohort Studies, Double-Blind Method, Female, Fetal Blood, Fetal Distress, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Infant, Newborn, Intensive Care, Neonatal, Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, Obstetric Labor Complications, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Outcome, Pregnancy, Prolonged, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Sensitivity and Specificity, Ultrasonography, Prenatal