Acute cardiovascular effects of fetal surgery in the human

Circulation. 2004 Sep 21;110(12):1549-56. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000142294.95388.C4. Epub 2004 Sep 7.


Background: Prenatal surgery for congenital anomalies can prevent fetal demise or alter the course of organ development, resulting in a more favorable condition at birth. The indications for fetal surgery continue to expand, yet little is known about the acute sequelae of fetal surgery on the human cardiovascular system.

Methods and results: Echocardiography was used to evaluate the heart before, during, and early after fetal surgery for congenital anomalies, including repair of myelomeningocele (MMC, n=51), resection of intrathoracic masses (ITM, n=15), tracheal occlusion for congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH, n=13), and resection of sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT, n=4). Fetuses with MMC all had normal cardiovascular systems entering into fetal surgery, whereas those with ITM, CDH, and SCT all exhibited secondary cardiovascular sequelae of the anomaly present. At fetal surgery, heart rate increased acutely, and combined cardiac output diminished at the time of fetal incision for all groups including those with MMC, which suggests diminished stroke volume. Ventricular dysfunction and valvular dysfunction were identified in all groups, as was acute constriction of the ductus arteriosus. Fetuses with ITM and SCT had the most significant changes at surgery.

Conclusions: Acute cardiovascular changes take place during fetal surgery that are likely a consequence of the physiology of the anomaly and the general effects of surgical stress, tocolytic agents, and anesthesia. Echocardiographic monitoring during fetal surgery is an important adjunct in the management of these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bradycardia / embryology
  • Bradycardia / etiology
  • Cardiac Output
  • Congenital Abnormalities / diagnostic imaging
  • Congenital Abnormalities / embryology*
  • Congenital Abnormalities / surgery*
  • Ductus Arteriosus / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Fetal Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Heart / physiopathology*
  • Fetal Monitoring
  • Fetal Therapies* / adverse effects
  • Fetal Therapies* / mortality
  • Fetal Therapies* / statistics & numerical data
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart Rate, Fetal
  • Heart Valve Diseases / embryology
  • Heart Valve Diseases / etiology
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / embryology
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / surgery
  • Humans
  • Hydrops Fetalis / complications
  • Hydrops Fetalis / physiopathology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Male
  • Meningomyelocele / embryology
  • Meningomyelocele / surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sacrum
  • Spinal Neoplasms / embryology
  • Spinal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Teratoma / embryology
  • Teratoma / surgery
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / embryology
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal
  • Ventricular Dysfunction / embryology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction / etiology