Open fetal surgery for life-threatening fetal malformations

Semin Perinatol. 1999 Dec;23(6):448-61. doi: 10.1016/s0146-0005(99)80024-x.


After more than two decades of experimental and clinical work, fetal surgery has become an accepted treatment modality for selected fetuses with life-threatening anomalies. Color Doppler ultrasound and ultrafast fetal magnetic resonance imaging have enhanced the accuracy of prenatal evaluation traditionally made by ultrasound alone. Fetal lung masses associated with hydrops are nearly 100% fatal. These lesions can be resected in utero if they are predominantly solid or multicystic. Thoracoamniotic shunting may be effective in the setting of a single large predominant cyst. Fetuses diagnosed with left congenital diaphragmatic hernia before 26 weeks' gestation with liver herniation and a sonographic right lung to head circumference ratio (LHR) of less than one may benefit from fetal tracheal occlusion. Fetal sacrococcygeal teratoma complicated with placentomegaly, hydrops, or progressive high output heart failure may benefit from in utero resection of the tumor. Although preterm labor still remains the Achilles heel of open fetal surgery, effective tocolysis may, in the future, expand the scope of fetal surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchopulmonary Sequestration / surgery
  • Congenital Abnormalities / surgery*
  • Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation of Lung, Congenital / surgery
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / surgery*
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / surgery
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / etiology
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Sacrococcygeal Region
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / adverse effects
  • Teratoma / surgery