Nonimmune hydrops fetalis management from the perspective of fetal cardiologists: A single tertiary center experience from Egypt


BACKGROUND: Despite advances in managing nonimmune hydrops fetalis (NIHF), perinatal mortality is still significant. Fetal cardiac failure eventually occurs regardless of etiology. However, no previous study has addressed NIHF from fetal cardiologists’ perspective. Therefore, we evaluated etiology and management of a NIHF cohort requiring fetal cardiologist consultation in a developing country.

METHODS: A single-center retrospective cohort study of 70 cases with NIHF that were referred to a fetal cardiology unit over four years was performed. Demographics, etiologic diagnosis, and outcomes of the cases were assessed. Antenatal management was evaluated using cardiovascular profile score (CVPS).

RESULTS: The most frequent diagnosis was Idiopathic hydrops 42(62.6%), followed by hydrops due to cardiac diseases 19(28.4%), and 3 dead fetuses were detected at the first fetal echocardiography. Treatment of fetal tachyarrhythmia (n = 7) had 100% success rate in terms of antenatal hydrops resolution. Digoxin was used in cases of structural heart diseases, twin- twin transfusion syndrome, and dilated cardiomyopathy with perinatal mortality occurring in all cases (n = 9). In cases of idiopathic hydrops, 14 fetuses received digoxin with intrauterine hydrops resolution in 2/14 (14%) while non-treated cases had intrauterine or early neonatal death.

CONCLUSION: Nonimmune hydrops is the worst complication of diverse etiologies. Limitations in resources for advanced investigations in developing countries increase the possibility of categorizing NIHF as idiopathic. Tachyarrhythmia induced hydrops can be entirely reversed with antenatal therapy while non-tachyarrhythmia fetal cardiac disease outcomes are unfavorable regardless of therapy. On the other hand, idiopathic hydrops shows a limited potential response to digoxin in utero.

*Corresponding Author: 

Shaimaa Rakha, Pediatric Cardiology Unit, Mansoura University Children Hospital, El Gomhouria St, Mansoura, Dakahlia Governorate 35516, Egypt. Tel.: +201030077567; E-mail: