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J Ultrasound Med. 2001 Nov;20(11):1165-70; quiz 1172-3.

Prenatal ultrasonography and the diagnosis of fetal cleft lip.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To determine the efficacy of obstetric ultrasonography in the detection of fetal cleft lip.


The study population included all women who had a fetal anatomic survey with adequate visualization of the face and who gave birth at Brigham and Women's Hospital between January 1, 1990, and January 31, 2000. All neonates born with cleft lip were identified from the Brigham and Women's Active Malformation Surveillance Program. Confirmation of the anatomic defect was obtained from the pediatric record or from the pathologic report if the pregnancy was terminated or ended in miscarriage. Cases of isolated cleft palate were excluded. An ultrasonography database was used to identify all cases of cleft lip diagnosed before delivery. Maternal information regarding the pregnancy was abstracted from the medical record. Statistical significance was determined using the chi2 statistic for categorical variables and the t test for continuous variables.


A total of 56 confirmed cases of cleft lip were identified in the study population. Overall, 73% of the cases (41 of 56) were identified antenatally. Additional fetal anomalies were present in 54% of the cases (30 of 56). A comparison between those cases that were detected and those in which the diagnosis was missed showed that there was a significantly lower detection rate if the ultrasonography was performed before 20 weeks (12 [57%] of 21 versus 29 [83%] of 35; P = .035). There was no difference between the 2 groups in terms of maternal age or weight. Maternal parity, prior maternal abdominal surgery, the presence of a multiple gestation, or coexisting fetal anomalies did not significantly affect the detection rate. There was no difference in detection rate in the first half of the study period (1990-1995; 23 [72%] of 32) compared with the second half (1996-2000; 18 [76%] of 24; P = .79).


In this cohort of women, the rate of detection of fetal cleft lip was significantly lower when the anatomic survey was performed before 20 weeks' gestation. This difference could not be accounted for by such variables as prior maternal abdominal surgery, coexisting fetal anomalies, or improvements in ultrasonographic detection with time. We recommend that the anatomic survey for fetuses at high risk for this condition be performed after 20 weeks' gestation.

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