Correlation between ultrasound and anatomical findings in fetuses with lower urinary tract obstruction in the first half of pregnancy

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2005 May;25(5):478-82. doi: 10.1002/uog.1878.


Objective: The prognosis of fetal lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO) depends upon renal function and also upon the underlying etiology. Precise identification of the latter remains a challenge antenatally. Our objective was to examine the underlying pathology in male fetuses with sonographic evidence of severe and isolated LUTO.

Methods: Detailed postmortem examination was carried out after termination of pregnancy in 24 male fetuses presenting before 25 weeks of gestation with ultrasound evidence of isolated severe LUTO.

Results: All fetuses had megacystis and hyperechogenic kidneys. There was anhydramnios/oligohydramnios and pelvicalyceal dilatation in 20 and 15 cases, respectively. Posterior urethral valves (PUV) were suspected antenatally in 20 cases and urethral atresia was not suspected antenatally. However, postmortem examination of the urethra demonstrated atresia in six cases, severe stenosis in eight cases, PUV in nine cases and an apparently normal urethra in one case. Renal dysplasia was found in all cases but one. Urethral atresia was the most common urethral anomaly at 12-17 weeks. Hydronephrosis was more frequent in cases with PUV (8/9) and urethral stenosis (6/8) than with urethral atresia (0/6). In LUTO presenting in the first and second trimester, hyperechogenic kidneys were predictive of renal dysplasia in 95% of cases. The association of a sagittal diameter of the bladder of at least 40 mm with hydronephrosis before 28 weeks was predictive of PUV with a positive (PPV) and negative (NPV) predictive value of 44.4% and 66.6%, respectively. Absence of hydronephrosis and a sagittal diameter of the bladder of less than 40 mm were predictive of urethral atresia or stenosis with a PPV and NPV of 100% and 47.6%, respectively. The absence of hydronephrosis was predictive of urethral atresia with a PPV and NPV of 66.6% and 100%, respectively.

Conclusion: LUTO in a male fetus presenting with megacystis in the first or second trimester of pregnancy is as likely to reflect urethral atresia or stenosis as it is PUV. The size of the bladder and the presence of hydronephrosis should be considered in order to improve prenatal diagnosis and counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Therapeutic
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydronephrosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hydronephrosis / embryology*
  • Kidney / abnormalities
  • Kidney / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*
  • Ureter / abnormalities
  • Ureter / diagnostic imaging
  • Urethra / abnormalities
  • Urethra / diagnostic imaging
  • Urethral Obstruction / diagnostic imaging*
  • Urethral Obstruction / embryology*
  • Urinary Bladder / abnormalities
  • Urinary Bladder / diagnostic imaging*