In this study, the authors retrospectively reviewed two cohorts of patients with occipital encephalocele (OE) and demonstrate the technical aspects of an innovative and unprecedented method for fetal OE correction.
This was a cross-sectional retrospective study of 22 patients who underwent surgery from July 2012 to July 2018. The inclusion criteria for participants were a gestational age between 19 weeks and 27 weeks, a maternal age ≥ 18 years, a normal fetal karyotype, the presence of microcephaly, and a cystic hernial sac with the cystic component accounting for more than 80% of the total volume, which was larger than 10 ml. The fetuses with OE and microcephaly underwent intrauterine repair. The exclusion criteria were the presence of a fetal anomaly not associated with OE, chromosomopathy, presence of the brainstem inside the hernial sac or venous sinuses inside the herniated content, the risk of premature birth, placenta previa, and maternal conditions that would constitute an additional risk for fetal and maternal health, as well as refusal for fetal surgery. The authors reviewed the potential for microcephaly reversal and the long-term neurocognitive development.
The authors report the cases of 9 fetuses with OE and microcephaly who underwent intrauterine OE repair at gestational ages of less than 27 weeks (fetal group). One case selected for fetal surgery also presented with placental abruption. All patients who underwent the fetal operation had microcephaly reversal, and 3 patients required ventriculoperitoneal shunting in the 1st year of life. The authors reviewed the cases of 12 patients who underwent postnatal repair. In 10 cases, fetal surgery was refused (postnatal group), and in 2 cases, the inclusion criteria for fetal surgery were not met. The authors evaluated the neurocognitive development of the patients with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II. The median score for the fetal group was 98.7, and that for the postnatal group was 27.8.
The intrauterine repair of OE may stop the progression of encephalocele sac herniation and result in microcephaly reversal. The fetal group had a better cognitive outcome than the postnatal group. The technique required to correct this defect is feasible for those with previous experience in the correction of fetal myelomeningocele. However, more studies are needed to ensure the efficacy of this procedure.