Three-dimensional ultrasound for prenatal assessment of conjoined twins: additional advantages?

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Abstract

Conjoined twins are a rare, but serious, complication of monozygotic twins. Early prenatal diagnosis of conjoined twins is increasingly made with transvaginal ultrasound and color Doppler studies. Most prenatally diagnosed conjoined twins are terminated due to the high perinatal mortality, but advancement in pediatric surgery has allowed for successful postnatal separation in a small number of cases, and some parents may consider this option over termination of pregnancy. It is important to get a detailed prenatal ultrasound for the site and extent of fusion for an accurate categorization. Three-dimensional ultrasound (3DUS) provides images that can facilitate counselling for the parents. Additional information that impacts on diagnosis, prognostication, and perinatal management of conjoined twins could be obtained from selective use of 3DUS, particularly those with atypical fetal union. Most of the proposed additional benefits of 3DUS are based on case reports. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been increasingly used for the purpose of identifying intricate organ sharing. Because of the rarity of this condition, and the heterogeneity of fetal fusion, added benefits of either 3DUS or MRI for prenatal diagnosis and perinatal management of conjoined twins have not been demonstrated by well-conducted clinical trials. This article aims to review clinical application of various 3DUS display modes in prenatal assessment of conjoined twins, focusing on their potential additional benefits, risks and misuses. 3DUS may help detecting additional findings that are not possible with 2DUS, but, it has not been scientifically shown to improve the survival rate of the twins or reduce maternal morbidity.

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