Prenatally diagnosed fetal tumors of the head and neck: a systematic review with antenatal and postnatal outcomes over the past 20 years

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The aim of this study was to review prenatally diagnosed tumors of the head and neck in the fetus and to report antenatal and postnatal outcomes.


PubMed/Medline, EMBASE/SCOPUS, Cochrane database and Google Scholar were reviewed over the last 20 years. No language or article type restriction was used.


A total of 1940 record were retrieved. Of the 713 records screened, 566 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility. After 445 articles were excluded for specified reasons, 111 studies met the research criteria and were included for qualitative analysis. Overall, 306 cases of fetal tumors of the head and neck were reviewed. Maternal age was an independent factor. The mean maternal age was 28.2 years and gestational age at prenatal diagnosis was 27.1 weeks. Conventional 2D ultrasound was the standard diagnostic procedure in 27.9% of cases and was implemented in 27.3% of cases by 3D ultrasound and fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Diagnostic evaluation of intracranial spreading and high-airway obstructions was greatly enhanced by fetal MRI. The more common type of fetal tumor was hemangioma/lymphangioms (42.1%), followed by teratomas (29.7%), tumors of the gingiva (10.1%) and lymphatic venous malformations (9.1%), respectively. Fetal karyotyping was performed only in 9.8% of cases; within fetuses undergoing karyotype, chromosomal abnormalities accounted for 20% of cases. The most common pregnancy complication was polyhydramnios (26.3%). Ex utero intrapartum treatment (EXIT) procedure was performed in 30.1% of cases while surgical excision was used in 22.9% during postnatal life. The survival rate was 35.35%.


Fetal tumors of the head and neck are rare congenital malformations. Two-dimensional ultrasound is diagnostic in almost all cases; however, MRI may be an important diagnostic adjunct in targeted cases and help patient selection for immediate intubation at the time of delivery. EXIT procedure and surgical removal of the tumor was associated with good prognosis.

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