Absent or reversed end diastolic flow (AREDF) velocities in the umbilical artery were identified in 25 high risk pregnancies. In six pregnancies the fetus was abnormal and all but one of these ended in perinatal death. Of the 19 morphologically normal fetuses, three died in utero and there were four neonatal or infant deaths. The mortality rate was 48% for all pregnancies and 37% for those with morphologically normal fetuses. There was a highly significant increased risk for the development of necrotising enterocolitis in these morphologically normal fetuses with AREDF (53%) compared with controls (6%) who did have umbilical artery end diastolic flow velocities in fetal life. There were no significant differences between the matched pairs for parameters of neonatal outcome chosen to reflect neonatal morbidity. These findings demonstrate the close association between AREDF and necrotising enterocolitis that appears to be independent of other variables such as degree of growth retardation, prematurity, and perinatal asphyxia.
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