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Hydatidiform mole

A hydatidiform mole (HM) is one of the commonest and most benign form of gestational trophoblastic disease


It is a common complication of gestation, estimated to occur in one of every 1,000-2,000 pregnancies 3. These moles can occur in a pregnant woman of any age, but the rate of occurrence is higher in pregnant women in their teens or between the ages of 40-50 years. There is a relatively increased prevalence in Asia (for example compared with Europe).


Sub types

A hydatidiform mole can either be complete or partial. The absence or presence of a fetus or embryo is used to distinguish complete moles from partial moles. Complete moles are associated with the absence of a fetus and partial moles usually occur with an abnormal fetus or may even be associated with fetal demise.

Rarely, moles co-exist with a normal pregnancy (co-existant molar pregnancy), in which a normal fetus and placenta are seen separate from the molar gestation.

Chromosomal composition

Ninety percent of complete hydatidiform moles have a 46XX diploid chromosomal pattern. All the chromosomes are derived from the sperm, suggesting fertilization of a single egg that has lost its chromosomes.

With partial moles, the karyotype is usually triploid (69XXY): the result of fertilization of a normal egg by two sperm, one bearing a 23X chromosomal pattern and the other a 23Y chromosomal pattern.


Complete hydatidiform moles usually occupy the uterine cavity and are rarely located in fallopian tubes or ovaries.

The chorionic villi are converted into a mass of clear vesicles that resemble a cluster of grapes.


In the classic case of molar pregnancy, quantitative analysis of beta-HCG shows hormone levels in both blood and urine greatly exceeding those produced in a normal pregnancy at the same stage. 

Radiographic features


The sonographic appearance of a complete hydatidiform mole can be extremely variable although the classic sonographic appearance is that of a solid collection of echoes with numerous small (3-10 mm 6) anechoic spaces (snowstorm or granular appearance). The term snowstorm sign usually dates back to earlier ultrasound equipment with inferior resolution. On ultrasound, molar tissue demonstrates the bunch of grapes sign which represents hydropic swelling of trophoblastic villi.

In partial moles, the placenta is enlarged and contains areas of multiple, diffuse anechoic lesions and fetal part may be seen. 

Colour Doppler interrogation may show high velocity, low impedance flow.

Other features may include:

A CT scan usually demonstrates a normal-sized uterus with areas of low attenuation, an enlarged inhomogeneous uterus with a central area of low attenuation, or hypo-attenuating foci surrounded by highly enhanced areas in the myometrium.


See also

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