umbilical artery, single

Ordinarily, the umbilical cord contains three vessels: two arteries and one vein. Since the fetus can function perfectly well with only one umbilical artery to handle blood flow to the placenta, this poses no problem. However, this anomaly is also sometimes associated with other more significant physical abnormalities in the baby, and thus can cause some concern and prompt your pediatrician to perhaps consider some studies to check out possible problems.

In a recent large study,

  • about a third of affected babies had some other anomaly
  • half of these babies had structural heart abnormalities
  • slightly more than a third had some gastrointestinal tract abnormality
  • one fourth had some malformation of the central nervous system

The condition is more common among twins.

Personal note: one of my sons had a single umbilical artery, and is just fine.

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