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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Mar;194(3):834-9.

Maternal morbidity after maternal-fetal surgery.

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  • 1Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Fetal Treatment Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0570, USA.



There is a paucity of published data on the maternal risks of fetal surgical interventions. We analyzed maternal morbidity and mortality that were associated with different types of fetal intervention (open hysterotomy, various endoscopic procedures and percutaneous techniques) to quantify this risk.


We performed a retrospective evaluation of a continuous series of 187 cases that had been performed between July 1989 and May 2003 at the Fetal Treatment Center, a highly specialized interdisciplinary center for fetal surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. The primary outcome was the frequency of maternal morbidity for open, endoscopic, and percutaneous procedures to access the fetus.


There were 187 pregnant women with confirmed major fetal malformations who were candidates for intrauterine fetal intervention. Maternal-fetal surgery was performed in 87 cases by open hysterotomy, in 69 cases by endoscopic procedures, and in 31 cases by percutaneous techniques. There were no maternal deaths, but significant short-term morbidity was observed. There were no significant differences in the incidence of premature rupture of membranes, pulmonary edema, placental abruption, postoperative vaginal bleeding, preterm delivery, or interval from maternal-fetal surgery to delivery between endoscopic procedures and open surgery. Complications were significantly less in the percutaneous ultrasound-guided procedures. Endoscopic procedures, even with a laparotomy, showed statistically significantly less morbidity compared with the open hysterotomy group regarding cesarean delivery as delivery mode (94.8% vs 58.8%; P < .001), requirement for intensive care unit stay (1.4% vs 26.4%; P < .001), length of hospital stay (7.9 vs 11.9 days; P = .001), and requirement for blood transfusions (2.9% vs 12.6%; P = .022). Chorion-amnion membrane separation (64.7% vs 20.3%; P < .001) was seen more often in the endoscopy group.


Short-term morbidities include increased rates of cesarean birth, treatment in intensive care, prolonged hospitalization, and blood transfusion, all of which were more common with hysterotomy compared with other techniques. Maternal-fetal surgery can be performed without maternal death. Results from this study provide helpful data for counseling prospective patients.

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