Society for maternal-fetal medicine (SMFM) clinical guideline #7: Nonimmune hydrops fetalis

Mary E. Norton, Suneet P. Chauhan, Jodi S. Dashe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Objective Nonimmune hydrops is the presence of ≥2 abnormal fetal fluid collections in the absence of red cell alloimmunization. The most common etiologies include cardiovascular, chromosomal, and hematologic abnormalities, followed by structural fetal anomalies, complications of monochorionic twinning, infection, and placental abnormalities. We sought to provide evidence-based guidelines for the evaluation and management of nonimmune hydrops fetalis. Methods A systematic literature review was performed using MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library. The search was restricted to English-language articles published from 1966 through June 2014. Priority was given to articles reporting original research, although review articles and commentaries also were consulted. Abstracts of research presented at symposia and scientific conferences were not considered adequate for inclusion in this document. Evidence reports and guidelines published by organizations or institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, Agency for Health Research and Quality, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine were also reviewed, and additional studies were located by reviewing bibliographies of identified articles. Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation methodology was employed for defining strength of recommendations and rating quality of evidence. Consistent with US Preventive Task Force guidelines, references were evaluated for quality based on the highest level of evidence. Results and Recommendations Evaluation of hydrops begins with an antibody screen (indirect Coombs test) to determine if it is nonimmune, detailed sonography of the fetus(es) and placenta, including echocardiography and assessment for fetal arrhythmia, and middle cerebral artery Doppler evaluation for anemia, as well as fetal karyotype and/or chromosomal microarray analysis, regardless of whether a structural fetal anomaly is identified. Recommended treatment depends on the underlying etiology and gestational age; preterm delivery is recommended only for obstetric indications including development of mirror syndrome. Candidates for corticosteroids and antepartum surveillance include those with an idiopathic etiology, an etiology amenable to prenatal or postnatal treatment, and those in whom intervention is planned if fetal deterioration occurs. Such pregnancies should be delivered at a facility with the capability to stabilize and treat critically ill newborns. The prognosis depends on etiology, response to therapy if treatable, and the gestational age at detection and delivery. Aneuploidy confers a poor prognosis, and even in the absence of aneuploidy, neonatal survival is often <50%. Mirror syndrome is a form of severe preeclampsia that may develop in association with fetal hydrops and in most cases necessitates delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • fetal complications
  • hydrops
  • nonimmune hydrops fetalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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