Fetal Lung Lesions

Fetal lung lesions are abnormalities that develop in a baby’s lungs while in utero.  

A fetal lung lesion describes a congenital lung abnormality that occurs when a baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. Some common forms of fetal lung lesions include:

  • Congenital pulmonary airway malformation (CPAM) – Also referred to as a congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM), CPAM is the most prevalent type of fetal lung lesion. It occurs when a mass of abnormal lung tissue develops in the chest.
  • Bronchopulmonary sequestration (BPS) – Similar to CPAM, BPS causes a mass of nonfunctioning lung tissue to grow inside or outside the lungs. This piece of tissue gets its blood supply from the aorta and is not connected to any airway.
  • Congenital high airway obstruction syndrome (CHAOS) – A condition in which a blockage develops in the baby’s trachea or larynx, CHAOS can be caused by laryngeal atresia or fluid-filled cysts.
  • Bronchogenic cyst – A fluid-filled lump that can bud off an airway branch and completely disconnect from the rest of the lungs.

A condition known as pleural effusion is often associated with fetal lung lesions. Sometimes called fetal hydrothorax, plural effusion occurs when excess fluid collects around the lungs as a result of certain lesions, inflammation or poor heart function.

Fetal Lung Lesion Causes

Any baby can develop a fetal lung mass. They appear to occur at random, as there are no known genetic factors or syndromes associated with these conditions. Currently, there is nothing a mother can do to prevent fetal lung lesions.

Fetal Lung Lesion Symptoms

Fetal lung lesions typically don’t cause noticeable symptoms before the baby is born. After birth, a baby with a lung lesion may have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin that appears slightly blue (cyanosis)
  • A collapsed lung

Fetal Lung Lesion Diagnosis

Some fetal lung lesions can be identified on a routine pregnancy ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. In other cases, lung lesions are diagnosed shortly after birth, later in childhood or even in adulthood if they cause symptoms. Some people only discover they have a congenital lung abnormality after being evaluated for another medical condition.

Fetal Lung Lesion Treatments

Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute is home to a multidisciplinary team of maternal-fetal medicine specialists, fetal surgeons, high-risk obstetricians, pediatricians and other experts who collaborate to provide a full spectrum of specialized care to mothers and babies.

When fetal lung lesion treatment is necessary, we excel in:

  • Thoracentesis to drain excess fluid from the fetal chest
  • Fetal surgery to remove potentially life-threatening masses
  • Surgery to remove a mass following birth