Advances in Fetal Surgery

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Advances in prenatal screening and diagnosis, combined with an understanding of the pathophysiology of congenital anomalies, have brought incredible impetus to the field of fetal surgery. Identification of fetal anomalies can lead to counseling of the affected family so that informed decisions can be made on how to proceed with the pregnancy. Counseling may lead to pregnancy termination, changes in the timing or mode of delivery, and, in select cases, prenatal intervention. Open fetal surgery may be considered in severe cases of congenital diaphragmatic hernia, congenital chest lesions, sacrococcygeal teratoma, urinary tract obstruction, and myelomeningocele. The ex utero intrapartum treatment procedure may be lifesaving for fetuses with giant neck masses. Finally, fetoscopic surgery may be offered for select cases of twin-twin transfusion syndrome and twin reversed arterial perfusion sequence. Fetal intervention in all of these cases depends on a team approach to the patient and on the objective comparison of outcomes with and without fetal therapy. In the future, further understanding of the genetic basis of congenital diseases may enable minimally invasive treatments such as stem cell transplantation or gene therapy.

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