Cystic hygromas, nuchal edema, and nuchal translucency at 11-14 weeks of gestation

Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Mar;107(3):678-83. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000201979.23031.32.


Objective: To estimate the incidence of septations in fetuses with increased nuchal translucency (NT) thickness, and to investigate the relationship between the length and thickness of the translucency and whether the length or septations provide useful information concerning the fetal karyotype in addition to that provided by the NT thickness alone.

Methods: We examined 386 fetuses with NT thickness equal to or above the 95th percentile for crown-rump length (CRL). A transverse suboccipitobregmatic section of the fetal head was taken to determine whether the sonolucency was septated, and a midsagittal longitudinal section was used to measure NT thickness, CRL, the longitudinal distance between the occiput and the lower end of the sonolucency toward the fetal sacrum (NT length) and the length between the occiput and the sacral tip (spinal length). Logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the effect on abnormal karyotype of CRL, NT thickness, and percentage of NT length to spinal length.

Results: Septations within the translucency were observed in all fetuses. The fetal karyotype was abnormal in 83 (21.5%) pregnancies, and multiple regression showed that the only significant independent predictor of abnormal karyotype was fetal NT thickness.

Conclusion: Septations within the translucency can be seen in all fetuses, and therefore this feature cannot be used to distinguish between increased NT and cystic hygromas. The length of the translucency is related to its thickness and does not give useful information concerning the fetal karyotype in addition to that provided by the NT thickness alone.

Level of evidence: II-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromosome Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrops Fetalis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Karyotyping
  • Lymphangioma, Cystic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuchal Translucency Measurement*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Regression Analysis