Single fetal demise in monochorionic twins: How to predict cerebral injury in the survivor co-twin?

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2023 Aug;102(8):1125-1134. doi: 10.1111/aogs.14604. Epub 2023 Jun 3.


Introduction: The aims of the study were to evaluate perinatal outcome in monochorionic (MC) twins complicated with single intrauterine fetal death, spontaneously vs after fetal therapy, and to assess antenatal events that increase the risk of cerebral injury.

Material and methods: Historical cohort study of MC pregnancies with single intrauterine fetal death diagnosed or referred to a tertiary referral hospital (2012-2020). Adverse perinatal outcome included termination of pregnancy, perinatal death, abnormal fetal or neonatal neuroimaging and abnormal neurological development.

Results: A total of 68 MC pregnancies with single intrauterine fetal death after 14 weeks of gestation were included. Sixty-five (95.6%) occurred in complicated MC pregnancies (twin to twin transfusion syndrome: 35/68 [51.5%]; discordant malformation: 13/68 [19.1%], selective intrauterine growth restriction: 10/68 [14.7%], twin reversed arterial perfusion sequence: 5/68 [7.3%] and cord entanglement in monoamniotic twins: 2/68 [2.94%]). In 52 cases (76.5%) single intrauterine fetal demise occurred after fetal therapy and in 16 (23.5%) occurred spontaneously. Cerebral damage included 14/68 cases (20.6%): 6/68 cases (8.82%) were prenatal lesions and 8/68 cases (11.8%) were postnatal. Risk of cerebral damage tended to be higher in the spontaneous death group (6/16, 37.5%) compared to the therapy-group (8/52, 15.38%) (p = 0.07). The risk increased with gestational age at intrauterine death (OR 1.21, 95% CI: 1.04-1.41, p = 0.014) and was higher in those surviving co-twins who developed anemia (OR 9.27, 95% CI: 1.50-57.12, p = 0.016). Pregnancies complicated with selective intrauterine growth restriction tended to be at higher risk for neurological damage (OR 2.85, 95% CI: 0.68-11.85, p = 0.15). Preterm birth rate (<37 weeks of pregnancy) was 61.7% (37/60). Seven of eight postnatal cerebral lesions (87.5%) were related to extreme prematurity. Overall perinatal survival rate was 88.3% (57/68) and 7% (4/57) of children had an abnormal neurological outcome.

Conclusions: Risk of cerebral damage in single intrauterine fetal death is especially high when it occurs spontaneously. Gestational age at single intrauterine fetal death, selective intrauterine growth restriction and anemia of the surviving co-twin are the main predictors for prenatal lesions and might be useful in parent counseling. Abnormal postnatal neurological outcome is closely related to extreme prematurity.

Keywords: cerebral injury; fetal therapy; monochorionic twins; neuroimaging; single intrauterine fetal death.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries* / etiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Fetofetal Transfusion* / complications
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy, Twin
  • Premature Birth*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stillbirth
  • Survivors
  • Twins, Monozygotic
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal