Diagnosis, treatment, and long-term outcomes of fetal hydrocephalus

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Dec;17(6):330-5. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


This study analyzed 156 cases of fetal hydrocephalus treated at Osaka National Hospital from 1992 to 2011 to review current methods for diagnosing and treating fetal hydrocephalus, and for estimating its clinical outcome. This was a retrospective study of a single institute (Osaka National Hospital). Of 156 cases in total, 37% were diagnosed as isolated ventriculomegaly, 50% as another type of malformation (36 cases of myelomeningocele, six of holoprosencephaly, three of Dandy-Walker syndrome, one case of Joubert syndrome, 12 of arachnoid cyst, nine of encephalocele, three of atresia of Monro and eight of corpus callosum agenesis, and 13% as secondary hydrocephalus. Diagnoses were made between 13 and 40 weeks of gestation (average 27 weeks). Diagnosis was made before 21 weeks of gestation in 24% of cases, from the first day of 22 weeks to the sixth day of 27 weeks in 27%, and after the first day of 28 weeks in 49%. With the exclusion of 17 aborted cases and 40 cases in which the patients were too young to evaluate or lost during follow-up, the final outcome was analyzed for 90 cases. Of these, 17% of the patients died, 21% showed severe retardation, 13% moderate retardation, 26% mild retardation, and 23% showed a good outcome. The long-term outcome was mostly influenced by the basic disease and accompanying anomaly. The time of diagnosis showed no correlation with outcome. Hydrocephalus associated with arachnoid cyst, atresia of Monro, and corpus callosum agenesis, and hydrocephalus due to fetal intracranial hemorrhage, resulted in good outcomes. By contrast, holoprosencephaly, hydrocephalus associated with encephalocele, syndromic hydrocephalus, and hydrocephalus due to fetal virus infection led to poor outcomes. For accurate diagnosis and proper counseling, established protocols are important for the diagnosis and treatment of fetal hydrocephalus, including not only fetal sonography, fetal magnetic resonance imaging, and TORCH (toxoplasma, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex) screening test, but also chromosomal and gene testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Ventricles / abnormalities*
  • Cerebral Ventriculitis / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases* / classification
  • Fetal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Fetal Diseases* / etiology
  • Fetal Diseases* / mortality
  • Fetal Diseases* / therapy
  • Fetus
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus* / classification
  • Hydrocephalus* / diagnosis
  • Hydrocephalus* / etiology
  • Hydrocephalus* / mortality
  • Hydrocephalus* / therapy
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Meningomyelocele / complications
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*