Should twin-specific growth charts be used to assess fetal growth in twin pregnancies?

Liran Hiersch, Jon Barrett, Nathan S. Fox, Andrei Rebarber, John Kingdom, Nir Melamed

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

One of the hallmarks of twin pregnancies is the slower rate of fetal growth when compared with singleton pregnancies during the third trimester. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon and whether it represents pathology or benign physiological adaptation are currently unclear. One important implication of these questions relates to the type growth charts that should be used by care providers to monitor growth of twin fetuses. If the slower growth represents pathology (ie, intrauterine growth restriction caused uteroplacental insufficiency), it would be preferable to use a singleton growth chart to identify a small twin fetus that is at risk for perinatal mortality and morbidity. If, however, the relative smallness of twins is the result of benign adaptive mechanisms, it is likely preferable to use a twin-based charts to avoid overdiagnosis of intrauterine growth restriction in twin pregnancies. In the current review, we addressed this question by describing the differences in fetal growth between twin and singleton pregnancies, reviewing the current knowledge regarding the mechanisms responsible for slower fetal growth in twins, summarizing available empirical evidence on the diagnostic accuracy of the 2 types of charts for intrauterine growth restriction in twin pregnancies, and addressing the question of whether uncomplicated dichorionic twins are at an increased risk for fetal death when compared with singleton fetuses. We identified a growing body of evidence that shows that the use of twin charts can reduce the proportion of twin fetuses identified with suspected intrauterine growth restriction by up to 8-fold and can lead to a diagnosis of intrauterine growth restriction that is more strongly associated with adverse perinatal outcomes and hypertensive disorders than a diagnosis of intrauterine growth restriction based on a singleton-based chart without compromising the detection of twin fetuses at risk for adverse outcomes caused by uteroplacental insufficiency. We further found that small for gestational age twins are less likely to experience adverse perinatal outcomes or to have evidence of uteroplacental insufficiency than small for gestational age singletons and that recent data question the longstanding view that uncomplicated dichorionic twins are at an increased risk for fetal death caused by placental insufficiency. Overall, it seems that, based on existing evidence, the of use twin charts is reasonable and may be preferred over the use of singleton charts when monitoring the growth of twin fetuses. Still, it is important to note that the available data have considerable limitations and are primarily derived from observational studies. Therefore, adequately-powered trials are likely needed to confirm the benefit of twin charts before their use is adopted by professional societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-28
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume227
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • biometry
  • birthweight
  • diagnosis
  • dichorionic twins
  • estimated fetal weight
  • fetal death
  • fetal programming
  • hypertension disorders
  • intrauterine growth restriction
  • monochorionic twins
  • physical constraint
  • placental crowding
  • preeclampsia
  • risk factors
  • small for gestational age
  • stillbirth

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