Occasionally, one artery wastes away or fails to develop leaving only a single umbilical artery (a two vessel umbilical cord). A single umbilical artery (SUA) is seen in 0.2% to
1% of pregnancies [1-3]. SUA is reported to be more common in twin pregnancies
and in placentas where the umbilical cord is at the edge of the placenta.
Evaluation of SUA
Although SUA may occur alone (isolated) in some cases, SUA may be associated with a collection of other findings that suggest a specific disorder (syndrome).
When SUA is found on an ultrasound examination a search for abnormalities of the
heart, gastrointestinal tract, brain, urinary tract, and bones will usually be
performed to evaluate the baby for other possible abnormalities [4-7].
abnormalities are found there may be as high as a 50% chance that the baby has a
abnormality including trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 . Another condition that has
been associated frequently with SUA is VATER association
(vertebral defects, anal atresia, tracheoesophageal fistula with esophageal atresia, and radial dysplasia).
Down syndrome has not commonly been associated with SUA [5,8-10]
If SUA is the only finding and there are no other findings on ultrasound examination the risk of a chromosomal abnormality appears to be very low
(0 to 2.6%) [8,10-12]. Nonetheless an
amniocentesis may sometimes be offered for further evaluation, since additional
findings in some syndromes may go undetected until after delivery [5,6].
In the past SUA was reported to be associated
with with low birthweight [2,5,11,14-16],
and an increased risk for stillbirth [11,12,7], for that reason evaluation of
the baby's growth and well being during the last 3 months of pregnancy has
More recent studies have shown that babies with isolated SUA do not
appear to be at any greater risk for poor growth than the fetus with a normal
three vessel umbilical cord [17-19]. In addition, one large study of 255 patients
with SUA did not find an increased risk for stillbirth in fetuses with SUA.
However, this study was not able to determine if serial testing might have been
responsible for preventing potential stillbirths and the reduced rate of stillbirths in
the fetuses with SUA .
While awaiting spontaneous labor at term, the planned method of delivery is
usually vaginal, with cesarean delivery performed for routine obstetric indications. If other
significant structural malformations are present,it is sensible for the infant
delivered in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).