Maternal and obstetric complications in fetal surgery for prenatal myelomeningocele repair: a systematic review

Neurosurg Focus. 2019 Oct 1;47(4):E11. doi: 10.3171/2019.7.FOCUS19470.


Objective: Comparing prenatal and postnatal surgical repair techniques for myelomeningocele (MMC), in utero fetal surgery has increasingly gained acceptance and is considered by many specialized centers the first choice of treatment. Despite its benefits, as demonstrated in the Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS), including reduced need for CSF shunting in neonates and improved motor outcomes at 30 months, there is still an ongoing debate on fetal and maternal risks associated with the procedure. Prenatal open hysterotomy, fetoscopic MMC repair techniques, and subsequent delivery by cesarean section are associated with maternal complications. The aim of this systematic review is to assess the available literature on maternal and obstetric complication rates and perinatal maternal outcomes related to fetal MMC repair.

Methods: The authors identified references for inclusion in this review by searching PubMed and MEDLINE, with restrictions to English language, case series, case reports, clinical trials, controlled clinical trials, meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, reviews, and systematic reviews. The rate of maternal and obstetric complications was analyzed based on studies focusing on this issue and presenting clear results on the matter.

Results: Of 1264 articles screened, 36 were included in this systemic review, whereof 11 were eligible for data analysis and comparison. The average overall rate of maternal and obstetric complications corresponds to 78.6%. The majority of the described events are obstetric complications, varying from chorioamniotic membrane separation in 65.6% of cases, oligohydramnios in 13.0% of cases, placental abruption in 5.0% of cases, spontaneous or preterm premature membrane rupture in 42.0% of cases, and early preterm delivery in 11.3% of cases due to uterine dehiscence, occurring in 0.9% of cases. The most common medical complications are development of pulmonary edema occurring in 2.8%, gestational diabetes in 3.7%, gestational hypertension/preeclampsia in 3.7%, and need for blood transfusions in 3.2% of cases. Limitations of the review arise from the lack of data in the current literature, with maternal and obstetric complications being underreported.

Conclusions: Although the efforts of further advancement of intrauterine prenatal MMC repair aim to increase neonatal outcomes, maternal health hazard will continue to be an issue of crucial importance and further studies are required.

Keywords: CMS = chorioamniotic membrane separation; MMC = myelomeningocele; MOMS = Management of Myelomeningocele Study; PPROM = premature preterm rupture of membranes; PTD = preterm delivery; SROM = spontaneous rupture of membranes; fetal surgery; maternal complications; maternal outcome; myelomeningocele; prenatal repair.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section* / adverse effects
  • Cesarean Section* / methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture*
  • Fetoscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Meningomyelocele / surgery*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures* / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / diagnosis

Supplementary concepts

  • Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes