The relationship between fetal growth and retinal nerve fiber layer thickness in a cohort of young adults
Purpose: To explore relationships between patterns of fetal anthropometric growth, as reflective of fetal wellbeing, and global retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness measured in young adulthood.
Methods: Participants (n = 481) from within a Western Australian pregnancy cohort study underwent five serial ultrasound scans during gestation, with fetal biometry measured at each scan. Optic disc parameters were measured via spectral-domain optical coherence tomography imaging at a 20-year follow-up eye examination. Generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate differences in global RNFL thickness between groups of participants who had undergone similar growth trajectories based on fetal head circumference (FHC), abdominal circumference (FAC), femur length (FFL), and estimated fetal weight (EFW).
Results: Participants with consistently large FHCs throughout gestation had significantly thicker global RNFLs than those with any other pattern of FHC growth (P = 0.023), even after adjustment for potential confounders (P = 0.037). Based on model fit statistics, FHC growth trajectory was a better predictor of global RNFL thickness than birth weight or head circumference at birth. RNFL thickness did not vary significantly between groups of participants with different growth trajectories based on FAC, FFL, or EFW.
Conclusions: FHC growth is associated with RNFL thickness in young adulthood and, moreover, is a better predictor than either birth weight or head circumference at birth.
Translational relevance: This research demonstrates an association between intrauterine growth and long-term optic nerve health, providing a basis for further exploring the extent of the influence of fetal wellbeing on clinical conditions linked to RNFL thinning.
Publication titleTranslational Vision Science and Technology
Department/SchoolMenzies Institute for Medical Research
PublisherAssociation for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Place of publicationRockville, Md.
Rights statementCopyright (2022) The Author(s). This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.