Fetoscopic endoluminal tracheal occlusion (FETO) improves lung maturation in severe cases of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) but it does not ameliorate lung compression by herniated abdominal organs. Surgically opening the fetal abdomen (abdominal decompression [AD]) reduces the intrathoracic pressure by diverting the abdominal organs into the amniotic cavity-a probable causal therapy for lung hypoplasia and pulmonary hypertension in CDH. Open surgical abdominal decompression has been reported: we describe a minimally invasive approach in an ovine model of CDH as a probable fetoscopic intervention.
Materials and Methods:
Eight fetuses were included, 2 were kept as HEALTHY controls. A CDH (left side, liver down) was created by open fetal surgery at midgestation in 6 fetuses, 2 were taken as CDH controls. Fetoscopic abdominal decompression (fAD) was performed 21 days later in 4 animals. The fetuses were retrieved at the end of gestation and evaluated by lung stereology.
fAD led to a near total evacuation of the thoracic cavity in 2 of the 4 animals. Fetuses with CDH had a lower total volume and fraction of alveolar air space, a lower volume fraction of the parenchyma, and an increase of the volume fraction of the alveolar septa and atelectasis, as well as an increased mean thickness of alveolar septa compared with HEALTHY fetuses. Fetuses treated with abdominal decompression showed an improvement of stereological parameters.
In spite of relevant limitations (pilot study, small groups, spontaneous closure of the abdominal incision) we were able to demonstrate that abdominal decompression for CDH can be performed by fetoscopy. Our results support the hypothesis of causally improving lung development by abdominal decompression, thus implying increased survival in extreme cases of CDH. A refinement of the fetoscopic techniques and direct comparison to FETO appears warranted.