Systematic review of methodology used in ultrasound studies aimed at creating charts of fetal size.
Ioannou C., Talbot K., Ohuma E., Sarris I., Villar J., Conde-Agudelo A., Papageorghiou AT.
BACKGROUND: Reliable ultrasound charts are necessary for the prenatal assessment of fetal size, yet there is a wide variation of methodologies for the creation of such charts. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the methodological quality of studies of fetal biometry using a set of predefined quality criteria of study design, statistical analysis and reporting methods. SEARCH STRATEGY: Electronic searches in MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL, and references of retrieved articles. SELECTION CRITERIA: Observational studies whose primary aim was to create ultrasound size charts for bi-parietal diameter, head circumference, abdominal circumference and femur length in fetuses from singleton pregnancies. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Studies were scored against a predefined set of independently agreed methodological criteria and an overall quality score was given to each study. Multiple regression analysis between quality scores and study characteristics was performed. MAIN RESULTS: Eighty-three studies met the inclusion criteria. The highest potential for bias was noted in the following fields: 'Inclusion/exclusion criteria', as none of the studies defined a rigorous set of antenatal or fetal conditions which should be excluded from analysis; 'Ultrasound quality control measures', as no study demonstrated a comprehensive quality assurance strategy; and 'Sample size calculation', which was apparent in six studies only. On multiple regression analysis, there was a positive correlation between quality scores and year of publication: quality has improved with time, yet considerable heterogeneity in study methodology is still observed today. CONCLUSIONS: There is considerable methodological heterogeneity in studies of fetal biometry. Standardisation of methodologies is necessary in order to make correct interpretations and comparisons between different charts. A checklist of recommended methodologies is proposed.