Research Article

Screening for the small-for-dates fetus: a two-stage ultrasonic examination schedule.

Br Med J 1980; 280 doi: (Published 17 May 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;280:1203
  1. J P Nielson,
  2. C R Whitfield,
  3. T C Aitchison


    To find an effective routine screening method for small-for-dates fetuses 474 women with singleton pregnancies participated in a two-stage ultrasonic examination schedule. At the first-stage examination, which was conducted in early pregnancy, fetal crown-rump length or biparietal diameter was measured for an accurate assessment of gestational age, which was essential for interpreting the results of the second-stage examination. The second-stage examination was performed at 34-36 weeks and entailed measuring seven fetal variables, the results of which were assessed singly and in combination after delivery to identify the best indicator of small-for-dates fetuses. Fetal head measurements proved to be the least sensitive indicators of growth retardation, correctly identifying only 56-59% of cases. Measurements of trunk area and circumference, however, correctly identified 81% and 83% of cases respectively, but the most effective screening index was the product of crown-rump length and trunk area: with this index 34 out of 36 small-for-dates fetuses (94%) were correctly identified. Calculating the product of crown-rump length and trunk area from ultrasonic displays is quick and simple, and combined with the first-stage examination is a highly reliable screening method for small-for-dates fetuses.