Routine third-trimester ultrasound in low-risk pregnancies and perinatal death: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Leen Al-Hafez, Suneet P. Chauhan, Melissa Riegel, Olaide Ashimi Balogun, Ibrahim A. Hammad, Vincenzo Berghella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to determine whether routine third-trimester ultrasounds in low-risk pregnancies decrease the rate of perinatal death compared with regular antenatal care with serial fundal height measurements. Data Sources: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials to identify relevant studies published from inception to October 2019. The databases used were Ovid, PubMed, Scopus,, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials using a combination of key words related to “third trimester ultrasound” and “low-risk.” Study Eligibility Criteria: We included all randomized control trials of singleton, nonanomalous low-risk pregnancies that were randomized to either one or more third-trimester ultrasounds (ultrasound group) or serial fundal height (fundal height group). Exclusion criteria were patients with multiple gestations, maternal medical complications, or fetal abnormalities requiring a third-trimester ultrasound. Study Appraisal and Synthesis Methods: The primary outcome was the rate of perinatal death. The secondary outcomes were rates of fetal growth restriction, suspected large for gestational age, polyhydramnios, oligohydramnios, fetal anomalies, antenatal interventions, stillbirth, neonatal death, cesarean delivery, induction of labor, and other neonatal outcomes. This meta-analysis was performed with the use of the random effects model of DerSimonian and Laird to produce relative risk or mean difference with a corresponding 95% confidence interval. Results: A total of 7 randomized control trials with 23,643 participants (12,343 in the ultrasound group vs 11,300 in the fundal height group) were included. The total rate of perinatal death was similar among the groups (41 of 11,322 [0.4%] vs 34 of 10,285 [0.3%]; relative risk, 1.14; 95% confidence interval, 0.68–1.89). The rate of fetal growth restriction was higher in the ultrasound group (763 of 10,388 [7%] vs 337 of 9021 [4%]; relative risk, 2.11; 95% confidence interval, 1.86–2.39) and the rate of suspected large for gestational age (1060 of 3513 [30%] vs 375 of 3558 [11%]; relative risk, 2.84; 95% confidence interval, 2.6–3.2). Polyhydramnios was also significantly higher in the ultrasound group than the fundal height group (18 of 323 [6%] vs 4 of 322 [1%] relative risk, 3.93; 95% confidence interval, 1.4–11). The rates of the remainder of the secondary outcomes were similar among the groups. Conclusion: Routine third-trimester ultrasounds do not decrease the rate of perinatal death compared with serial fundal height in low-risk pregnancies. Ideally, an adequately powered trial is warranted to determine whether perinatal mortality in the fundal height group can be reduced by one-third with third-trimester ultrasound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100242
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics & gynecology MFM
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • low-risk pregnancies
  • third-trimester ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Medicine(all)


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