With the aim of determining fetal growth kinetics, prenatal data were analysed which had been longitudinally collected in the framework of a perinatal growth survey. The sample comprised 238 singleton normal pregnancies, selected in Genoa and Turin (between 1987 and 1990), and repeatedly assessed by ultrasound scans (five to nine per pregnancy). Five morphometric traits were considered: BPD (biparietal diameter), OFD (occipitofrontal diameter), HC (head circumference), FDL (femur diaphysis length) and AC (abdomen circumference). Growth rate seemed to increase in the early part of the second trimester, and decrease subsequently: velocity peaks were steeper and earlier for head diameters and circumference (about 18 weeks) than for femur length (20 weeks) and abdomen circumference (22 weeks). Velocity standards were traced using a longitudinal two-stage linear model: this ensures unbiased description of the shape of the growth curve, even when growth kinetics are asynchronous, and efficient estimation of the outer centiles--the most useful for diagnostic purposes.
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