Fetal laser therapy: applications in the management of fetal pathologies

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Fetoscopic coagulation of placental anastomoses is the treatment of choice for severe twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. In the present day, fetal laser therapy is also used to treat amniotic bands, chorioangiomas, sacrococcygeal teratomas, lower urinary tract obstructions and chest masses, all of which will be reviewed in this article. Amniotic band syndrome can cause limb amputation by impairing downstream blood flow. Large chorioangiomas (>4 cm), sacrococcygeal teratomas or fetal hyperechoic lung lesions can lead to fetal compromise and hydrops by vascular steal phenomenon or compression. Renal damage, bladder dysfunction and lastly death because of pulmonary hypolasia may be the result of megacystis caused by a posterior urethral valve. The prognosis of these pathologies can be dismal, and therapy options are limited, which has brought fetal laser therapy to the forefront. Management options discussed here are laser release of amniotic bands, laser coagulation of the placental or fetal tumor feeding vessels and laser therapy by fetal cystoscopy. This review, largely based on case reports, does not intend to provide a level of evidence supporting laser therapy over other treatment options. Centralized evaluation by specialists using strict selection criteria and long-term follow-up of these rare cases are now needed to prove the value of endoscopic or ultrasound-guided laser therapy.

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