Introduction Virtual touch tissue quantification (VTTQ) has been developed to evaluate tissue elasticity. Our previous study using delivered placentas showed increased elasticity in fetal growth restriction (FGR). Therefore, we investigated changes in placental elasticity during pregnancy, including complicated pregnancies. Methods Based on complications, 199 women were divided into 5 groups (normal, FGR, pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), diabetes mellitus and collagen disease), and shear wave velocity (SWV) of the placenta, measured using VTTQ, was compared. A cross-sectional study was performed with the 143 normal cases to construct the reference range. The association between placental SWV and the expression ratio of collagen fibers in the placenta stained with Masson's trichrome was determined. Results The SWV was safely measured for all participants. The correlation between SWV and gestational weeks was not significant. The mean ± SD SWVs in the normal, FGR, and PIH groups were 0.98 ± 0.21, 1.28 ± 0.39, and 1.60 ± 0.45 m/sec, respectively. The FGR and PIH groups had significantly higher SWVs than that of the normal group. SWV and the expression ratio of collagen fibers were significantly correlated. Discussion Based on the present findings, changes in SWV during pregnancy were associated with placental fibrosis, and increased SWV in PIH and/or FGR cases might be influenced by infarction, ischemic changes, and inflammation, as well as fibrosis. In conclusion, the measurement of placental SWV is potentially useful to evaluate the condition of the placenta during pregnancy.
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