Hydrops fetalis is a serious condition in which abnormal amounts of fluid build up in two or more body areas of a fetus or newborn.
See also: Erythroblastosis fetalis
There are two types of hydrops fetalis: Immune and nonimmune. The exact cause depends on which form a baby has.
The number of babies who develop immune hydrops fetalis has dramatically decreased since the introduction of the medicine RhoGAM, which is used to treat pregnant mothers at risk for Rh incompatibility.
Symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. Mild forms may cause:
More severe forms may cause:
An ultrasound done during pregnancy may show:
An amniocentesis and frequent ultrasounds will be done to determine the severity of the condition.
Treatment depends on the cause. During pregnancy, treatment may include:
Treatment for a newborn may include:
Hydrops fetalis often results in death of the infant shortly before or after delivery. The risk is highest among the most premature babies and those who are severely ill at birth.
Brain damage called kernicterus may occur.
Rh incompatibility, which can lead to this condition, can be prevented if the mother takes a medicine called RhoGAM at certain times during and after pregnancy.
Abrams ME, Meredith KS, Kinnard P, Clark RH. Hydrops fetalis: a retrospective review of cases reported to a large national database and identification of risk factors associated with death. Pediatrics. 2007 Jul;120(1):84-9.
Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 7th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2005.
Updated by: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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