Hydrops fetalis

Hydrops fetalis is excessive extravasation of fluid into the third space in a fetus which could be due to heart failure, volume overload, decreased oncotic pressure, or increased vascular permeability. Hydrops fetalis is defined as accumulation of fluid +/- oedema involving at least two fetal components, which may manifest as

The estimated incidence is at ~1 in 2000 births although this can significantly vary according to different regions.

It is considered a prenatal form of cardiac failure. It was traditionally divided into two broad groups:

Accounts for a minority (~10%) of cases in present day pregnancies 8, although historically accounted for large proportion of cases in the early to mid 20th century:

Accounts for a majority of cases and can arise from protean causes which include:

Sonographic features can be similar for both immune and non-immune hydrops and include:

The overall prognosis can be variable, dependent on the underlying cause.

The term hydrops fetalis comes from the Latin meaning oedema of the fetus 6.

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Article information

rID: 9393
System: Obstetrics
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Fetal hydrops

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Cases and figures

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    Cystic Hygroma
    Case 1: with cystic hygroma
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    Hydrops Fetalis
    Case 2
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    Case 3
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    Scalp oedema
    Case 4: with scalp oedema
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    Case 5: TORCH test positive
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