Fetal nuchal edema

Last revised by Dr Mostafa El-Feky on 30 Jul 2022

Fetal nuchal edema is a term describing a swollen fetal neck region. It can be thought of as a less severe form of a cystic hygroma.

It can arise from diverse causes including:  

Nuchal edema is considered significant if it covers the back and sides of the neck with more than 3 mm thickness up to the 14th week of gestation, and more than 4-6 mm later. Septations are absent (cf. cystic hygroma) 5.

It may either be seen in the 1st trimester as increased nuchal translucency or in the 2nd trimester as increased nuchal thickness.

The Terminologia Anatomica refers to the neck as a whole as the "collum". In official Latin anatomical nomenclature, "cervix" refers to the front of the neck and "nucha" to the back (nape) of the neck 6.

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1a: axial
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  • Case 1b: sagittal
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