Correction of congenital diaphragmatic hernia in utero VIII: Response of the hypoplastic lung to tracheal occlusion

J Pediatr Surg. 1996 Oct;31(10):1339-48. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(96)90824-6.


Most fetuses with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) diagnosed before 24 weeks' gestation die despite optimal postnatal care. In fetuses with liver herniation into the chest, prenatal repair has not been successful. In the course of exploring the pathophysiology of CDH and its repair in fetal lambs, the authors found that obstructing the normal egress of fetal lung fluid enlarges developing fetal lungs, reduces the herniated viscera, and accelerates lung growth, resulting in improved pulmonary function after birth. They developed and tested experimentally a variety of methods to temporarily occlude the fetal trachea, allow fetal lung growth, and reverse the obstruction at birth. The authors applied this strategy of temporary tracheal occlusion in eight human fetuses with CDH and liver herniation at 25 to 28 weeks' gestation. With ongoing experimental and clinical experience, the technique of tracheal occlusion evolved from an internal plug (two patients) to an external clip (six patients), and a technique was developed for unplugging the trachea at the time of birth (Ex Utero Intrapartum Tracheoplasty [EXIT]). Two fetuses had a foam plug placed inside the trachea. The first showed dramatic lung growth in utero and survived; the second (who had a smaller plug to avoid tracheomalacia) showed no demonstrable lung growth and died at birth. Two fetuses had external spring-loaded aneurysm clips placed on the trachea; one was aborted due to tocolytic failure, and the other showed no lung growth (presumed leak) and died 3 months after birth. Four fetuses had metal clips placed on the trachea. All showed dramatic lung growth in utero, with reversal of pulmonary hypoplasia documented after birth. However, all died of nonpulmonary causes. Temporary occlusion of the fetal trachea accelerates fetal lung growth and ameliorates the often fatal pulmonary hypoplasia associated with severe CDH. Although the strategy is physiologically sound and technically feasible, complications encountered during the evolution of these techniques have limited the survival rate. Further evolution of this technique is required before it can be recommended as therapy for fetal pulmonary hypoplasia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Diseases / therapy*
  • Fetal Organ Maturity
  • Fetoscopy
  • Fetus / surgery
  • Hernia, Diaphragmatic / therapy*
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / embryology*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Sheep
  • Trachea*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal