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Death due to high-output cardiac failure in fetal sacrococcygeal teratoma.

Fetal sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT) is being recognized with increasing frequency. Placentomegaly and hydrops fetalis are preterminal events, and it has been suggested that fetal death may be due to high-output cardiac failure from arteriovenous shunting through the tumor. We had a chance to examine this hypothesis when a 21-week fetus presented with a huge sacrococcygeal teratoma. There were marked placentomegaly, cardiomegaly, hyperdynamic ventricles, and a pericardial effusion. Doppler studies showed tremendous flow through the SCT with extreme enlargement of the inferior vena cava, consistent with congestive heart failure from increased flow through the tumor. Hydrops developed, and the fetus was delivered because of placental abruption. This case provides supportive evidence that the teratoma acts as a large arteriovenous shunt, causing high-output cardiac failure. We have now collected 18 more cases of sacrococcygeal teratoma diagnosed in utero. Of the total 45 cases of fetal SCT, 9 had placentomegaly and/or fetal hydrops and all 9 fetuses died in utero or shortly after birth. We conclude that the only hope for survival in these severely affected fetuses is to reduce blood flow to the tumor before birth.

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