Management of rhesus alloimmunization in pregnancy

Kenneth J Moise
Obstetrics and Gynecology 2008, 112 (1): 164-76
Rhesus immune globulin has decreased the prevalence of rhesus D alloimmunization in pregnancy so that only approximately six cases occur in every 1,000 live births. The rarity of this condition warrants consideration of consultation with or referral to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with experience in the monitoring and treatment of patients with red cell alloimmunization in pregnancy. Evaluation for the presence of maternal anti-D antibody should be undertaken at the first prenatal visit. First-time sensitized pregnancies are followed with serial maternal titers and, when necessary, serial Doppler assessment of the peak systolic velocity in the middle cerebral artery. In cases of a heterozygous paternal genotype, new DNA techniques now make it possible to diagnose the fetal blood type through free fetal DNA in maternal plasma. When there is a history of an affected fetus or infant, maternal titers are no longer predictive of risk in subsequent pregnancies. Serial peak middle cerebral artery velocities using Doppler ultrasonography can be used in these pregnancies to detect fetal anemia. In some situations, intrauterine transfusion is necessary through ultrasound-directed puncture of the umbilical cord with the direct intravascular injection of red cells. Perinatal survival rates of more than 90% have been reported; hydrops fetalis reduces the chance for a viable outcome by up to 11%. Neonatal and infant outcomes are complicated by the need for repeated transfusions secondary to suppressed erythropoiesis. Long-term studies have revealed normal neurologic outcomes in more than 90% of cases. Future therapy will involve selective modulation of the maternal immune system, making the need for intrauterine transfusions a rarity.

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