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J Pediatr Surg. 1996 Oct;31(10):1335-8.

Fetal endoscopic tracheal occlusion ('Fetendo-PLUG') for congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

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  • 1Fetal Treatment Center, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0570, USA.


Despite recent advances in surgical technique, posthysterotomy preterm labor remains a major determinant of postoperative fetal morbidity and mortality after in utero repair of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Temporary fetal tracheal occlusion, or "PLUG" (Plug the Lung Until it Grows), reverses the pulmonary hypoplasia seen in experimental models of CDH and provides an alternative treatment strategy for some fetuses with CDH. Adaptation of current, minimally invasive surgical technology to the PLUG technique allows treatment of CDH without opening the uterus. In this report the authors describe a video-fetoscopic, intrauterine technique of tracheal occlusion (called Fetendo-PLUG) that could be used in human fetuses with CDH. The technique was developed in four fetal lambs that underwent video-fetoscopic intervention at 110 days' gestation (full term, 145 days), having undergone open creation of diaphragmatic hernias at 75 days. After maternal laparotomy and uterine exposure, the fetal head was located and a 5-mm curved, balloon-cuffed trocar was introduced through a uterine puncture directly into the fetal oral cavity. A steerable "bronchoscope" (with an instrument channel) was used to endoscopically intubate the trachea through the trocar, and the trocar was advanced over the bronchoscope and its balloon inflated to provide secure tracheal access below the vocal cords. Next, a 10-mm trocar was placed directly over the fetal neck, and the amniotic space was expanded with warm saline. A 5-mm laparoscope was introduced, and under simultaneous, dual video-fetoscopic (endotracheal and endoamniotic) visualization, a 1-mm nephrostomy puncture wire was advanced along the instrument channel of the bronchoscope, through the anterior wall of the trachea and fetal neck, into the amniotic space, then through the uterine wall to the outside. Withdrawal of the bronchoscope over the wire left a 5-mm endotracheal "trocar channel" along which a compressed, gelatin-encapsulated, polymeric foam insert (outer diameter, 4.8 mm) could be delivered by suture attachment to the guide wire. Once the foam was in its final endotracheal position, dissolution of the gelatin membrane allowed expansion of the foam to produce a water impervious tracheal occlusion. This two-trocar video-fetoscopic PLUG technique was performed successfully in all four fetuses, with a sequential decrease in operating time (median, 3.5 hours). Although two fetuses aborted postoperatively, the other two were carried successfully to term and demonstrated the anticipated physiological effects of adequate tracheal occlusion at the time of delivery.

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