Sonographic Estimation of the Fetal Head Circumference: Accuracy and Factors Affecting the Error

Vidyashree Ganesh Poojari, Aiswarya Jose, Muralidhar V. Pai

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Sonographic measurement of fetal head circumference (HC) is an essential parameter for the estimation of fetal weight as well as in cases with abnormal fetal head size. Since there is a lack of data, the present study was to assess the accuracy of ultrasonographic estimation of fetal HC and to identify factors that affect the accuracy of fetal HC estimation. Material and Methods: A prospective cohort observational study was conducted for a year. Sonographic fetal biometry including HC was performed, and fetal HC was measured postnatally. Measures of accuracy and various factors which affect the accuracy are analyzed. Results: Ultrasonographic HC underestimated actual postnatal HC in 87.5% and overestimated actual HC in 12.5%. Sonographic underestimation of HC persisted throughout gestation and became more pronounced as gestational age increased. Error in HC was statistically significant in those with low liquor and anterior placenta and in those who had instrumental delivery. Parity, fetal presentation, and maternal diabetes did not affect the error in ultrasonographic measurement of head circumference. When the HC was beyond 95th centile on ultrasound, the error detected postnatally was significant (− 14 mm vs. − 8 mm), though not statistically significant (p value 0.82). The difference between the sonographic and postnatal HC was also related to the mode of delivery with the highest error seen in those who had instrumental vaginal delivery (p value 0.031). Conclusion: The ultrasound estimation of fetal HC is associated with significant underestimation of the actual HC measured postnatally. The error in measuring fetal HC increased in those with advanced gestational age, low liquor, and anterior location of the placenta and in those who had instrumental vaginal delivery. The measurement error may have important implications in specific clinical scenarios like monitoring pregnancy with fetal growth restriction, suspected fetal head growth abnormalities, and labor outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-138
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India
Publication statusPublished - 08-2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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