A strategy for reducing the mortality rate from vasa previa using transvaginal sonography with color Doppler

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Dec;12(6):434-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-0705.1998.12060434.x.


Vasa previa is a cause of sudden unanticipated fetal death, with a fetal mortality of 33-100%. Transvaginal sonography (TVS) and color Doppler may aid in making the diagnosis antenatally, allowing elective Cesarean delivery, thereby avoiding fetal death from exsanguination which would occur if the membranes were allowed to rupture in labor. Whilst it is not feasible to screen all pregnant women for vasa previa, antenatal examination with TVS and color Doppler of women at risk, specifically those with low-lying placentas, bi-lobed, multi-lobed and succenturiate-lobed placentas, multiple pregnancies and pregnancies resulting from in vitro fertilization may lead to antenatal diagnosis of the condition. We present the last three cases of vasa previa to have occurred in our institution, two of which were diagnosed antenatally using TVS and color Doppler. In all three cases, routine 20-week obstetric sonography revealed low-lying placentas; in only one of these did the placenta remain low at term. A low-lying placenta at 20 weeks may be a risk factor for vasa previa; we suggest that further studies be carried out to ascertain this. Judicious use of TVS and color Doppler in women considered at risk of vasa previa may help to reduce the mortality from this condition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Fetal Death / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Labor Presentation*
  • Placenta / diagnostic imaging
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*
  • Umbilical Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Umbilical Cord / pathology*