Intrauterine Fetal Blood TransfusionsIntrauterine blood transfusions are recommended to treat some cases of severe fetal anemia. During pregnancy, a fetus can become anemic when its levels of circulating red blood cells and hemoglobin drop below what is considered normal. This could cause heart failure and hydrops in the fetus and, if left untreated, can become fatal. Intrauterine blood transfusions can correct the problem using healthy red blood cells from a compatible donor.
Fetal anemia can be caused by several factors, including:
- Differing blood types between mother and fetus that lead to the mother’s antibodies attacking the fetus’s blood cells
- Viral infections
- Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome
Intrauterine blood transfusions can be used to treat fetal anemia and related symptoms, which can be detected through testing:
- Amniocentesis or fetal blood sampling (FBS) results that suggest fetal anemia
- Ultrasound revealing signs of anemia or hydrops
With intrauterine fetal transfusions, blood is transfused either into the umbilical cord (intravascular, or IVT) or into the fetus’s abdomen (intraperitoneal, or IPT). IVT transfusion is the more commonly performed procedure. The mother will be sedated and the fetus will be given medicine to temporarily stop its movement, allowing the transfusion needle to be more easily guided to its destination. After the procedure, the mother will normally be prescribed antibiotics. In rare cases, she will be given tocolytic medicine to avoid going into labor.
What to Expect
Intrauterine fetal blood transfusions are typically performed on an outpatient basis and the mother can often leave the hospital after several hours. This procedure may need to be repeated over the course of several weeks depending on the severity of the fetus’s anemia. As with any surgical procedure, there are potential risks involved:
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Amniotic fluid leakage
- Premature labor
- Fetal distress or death
Intrauterine fetal transfusion is often successful, particularly when an anemic fetus has not developed hydrops. Tampa General Hospital’s team of fetal care experts and cutting-edge technology is adept at reaching world-class results with intrauterine fetal blood transfusions and other related procedures.