BACKGROUND: While Doppler ultrasound screening is beneficial for women with high-risk pregnancies, there is insufficient evidence on its benefits and harms in low- and unselected-risk pregnancies. This may be related to fewer events of abnormal Doppler flow, however the prevalence of absent or reversed end diastolic flow (AEDF or REDF) in such women is unknown. In this systematic review, we aimed to synthesise available data on the prevalence of AEDF or REDF. METHODS: We searched PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, CENTRAL and Global Index Medicus with no date, setting or language restrictions. All randomized or non-randomized studies reporting AEDF or REDF prevalence based on Doppler assessment of umbilical arterial flow > 20 weeks' gestation were eligible. Two authors assessed eligibility and extracted data on primary (AEDF and REDF) and secondary (fetal, perinatal, and neonatal mortality, caesarean section) outcomes, with results presented descriptively. RESULTS: A total of 42 studies (18,282 women) were included. Thirty-six studies reported zero AEDF or REDF cases. However, 55 AEDF or REDF cases were identified from just six studies (prevalence 0.08% to 2.13%). Four of these studies were in unselected-risk women and five were conducted in high-income countries. There was limited evidence from low- and middle-income countries. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence from largely observational studies in higher-income countries suggests that AEDF and REDF are rare among low- and unselected-risk pregnant women. There are insufficient data from lower-income countries and further research is required.
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