The severity of immune fetal hydrops is predictive of fetal outcome after intrauterine treatment

I L van Kamp, F J Klumper, R S Bakkum, D Oepkes, R H Meerman, S A Scherjon, H H Kanhai
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2001, 185 (3): 668-73

OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that the degree of immune fetal hydrops predicts outcome in red blood cell-alloimmunized pregnancies.

STUDY DESIGN: In an 11-year period, 213 fetuses received 599 intrauterine transfusions. The outcome of 208 pregnancies, including two pairs of twins, was analyzed in a retrospective study. Eighty fetuses demonstrated ultrasonographic signs of hydrops at the start of treatment; 42 of these were classified as mildly hydropic and 38 were classified as severely hydropic. Reversal of hydrops as a result of treatment, survival, and neonatal morbidity was studied.

RESULTS: The overall survival rate of fetuses with hydrops was 78%. Of the fetuses with mild hydrops, 98% survived, whereas in cases of severe hydrops the survival rate was 55%. Intrauterine reversal of hydrops occurred in 65% of the fetuses with hydrops. The reversal rate was 88% in fetuses with mild hydrops and 39% in fetuses classified as severely hydropic. After reversal of hydrops, almost all of the fetuses survived (98%), whereas in cases of persistent hydrops outcome was unfavorable, with a survival rate of 39% for all fetuses and 26% for fetuses classified as severely hydropic.

CONCLUSION: In contrast with severe hydrops, there is a high rate of reversal of mild hydrops after adequate treatment. In our study 98% of fetuses survived after reversal of hydrops. To improve the outcome of red blood cell-alloimmunized pregnancies, early diagnosis of fetal anemia and referral to a specialized center are important; these steps enable the start of intrauterine treatment when hydrops is absent or still mild.

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