A system-based approach to the genetic etiologies of non-immune hydrops fetalis

Prenat Diagn. 2019 Aug;39(9):732-750. doi: 10.1002/pd.5479. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


A wide spectrum of genetic causes may lead to nonimmune hydrops fetalis (NIHF), and a thorough phenotypic and genetic evaluation are essential to determine the underlying etiology, optimally manage these pregnancies, and inform discussions about anticipated prognosis. In this review, we outline the known genetic etiologies of NIHF by fetal organ system affected, and provide a systematic approach to the evaluation of NIHF. Some of the underlying genetic disorders are associated with characteristic phenotypic features that may be seen on prenatal ultrasound, such as hepatomegaly with lysosomal storage disorders, hyperechoic kidneys with congenital nephrosis, or pulmonary valve stenosis with RASopathies. However, this is not always the case, and the approach to evaluation must include prenatal ultrasound findings as well as genetic testing and many other factors. Genetic testing that has been utilized for NIHF ranges from standard chromosomal microarray or karyotype to gene panels and broad approaches such as whole exome sequencing. Family and obstetric history, as well as pathology examination, can yield additional clues that are helpful in establishing a diagnosis. A systematic approach to evaluation can guide a more targeted approach to genetic evaluation, diagnosis, and management of NIHF.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Hydrops Fetalis / diagnostic imaging
  • Hydrops Fetalis / genetics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal