Patterns of placental injury in various types of fetal congenital heart disease

J Perinat Med. 2022 Dec 28;51(5):704-711. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2022-0478. Print 2023 Jun 27.


Objectives: Fetal blood circulation may be modified in congenital heart disease (CHD). This retrospective analysis was performed to study whether the type of CHD is associated with specific placental pathology.

Methods: Three types of CHD based on presumed proportion of placental and systemic blood distribution in fetal circulation were analyzed: Group 1: 89 cases with low placental blood content (hypoplastic left heart syndrome, transposition of great arteries, coarctation of aorta), Group 2: 71 placentas with intermediate placental and systemic blood content due to increased intracardiac blood mixing (tetralogy of Fallot, truncus arteriosus, double inlet/outlet ventricle), and Group 3: 24 placentas with high placental blood content (tricuspid or pulmonary atresia, Ebstein anomaly). Frequencies of 27 independent clinical and 47 placental phenotypes of 184 placentas in those three groups were statistically compared.

Results: The most advanced gestational age at delivery, and large vessel (global) fetal vascular malperfusion (FVM) were most common in Group 1, while macerated stillbirths, neonatal mortality, abnormal amniotic fluid volume (oligohydramnios or polyhydramnios), other congenital anomalies, distal villous lesions of FVM, placental edema and amnion nodosum were most common in Groups 2 and 3, although the frequencies of placental lesions were statistically not significant.

Conclusions: Left heart obstructive lesions potentially associated with brain maldevelopment show increase in lesions of global FVM (in aggregate and individually fetal vascular ectasia, stem vessel obliteration and intramural fibrin deposition) as may be seen in umbilical cord compromise. CHD with increased intracardiac blood mixing or with right heart defects is associated with average preterm gestational age at delivery and placental lesions of distal villous FVM, villous edema and amnion nodosum.

Keywords: congenital heart disease; fetal blood composition; fetal vascular malperfusion; placenta.

MeSH terms

  • Edema / pathology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases* / pathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / complications
  • Humans
  • Placenta / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies