An intrauterine transfusion provides blood
Rh-positive fetus when fetal red blood cells are being
destroyed by Rh
A blood transfusion is given
to replace fetal red blood cells that are being destroyed by the
Rh-sensitized mother's immune system. This treatment
is meant to keep the fetus healthy until he or she is mature enough to be
Transfusions can be given through the fetal abdomen or,
more commonly, by delivering the blood into the umbilical vein. Umbilical cord
vessel transfusion is the preferred method because it permits better absorption
of blood and has a higher survival rate than does transfusion through the
An intrauterine fetal blood
transfusion is done in the hospital. The mother may have to stay overnight
after the procedure.
A short recovery period (approximately
1 to 3 hours) is necessary to allow the mother's sedatives to wear off. If the
fetus was given medicine to prevent movement, it may be several hours until the
mother can feel the fetus moving again.
A sensitized mother's
immune system can destroy a large amount of fetal red
blood cells, causing severe
anemia. Intrauterine blood transfusions are done
In a severely affected fetus, transfusions are done every 1
to 4 weeks until the fetus is mature enough to be delivered safely.
Amniocentesis may be done to determine the maturity of the fetus's lungs before
delivery is scheduled.
Fetal survival after transfusion
depends upon the severity of the fetus's illness, the method of transfusion,
and the skill of the doctor who does the procedure. Overall, after intrauterine
transfusion through the umbilical cord:2
Intrauterine transfusions may cause:
Umbilical blood transfusions are
usually done by perinatologists at specialized centers.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Moise KJ (2009). Hemolytic disease of the fetus and
newborn. In RK Creasy, R Resnik, eds., Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine, 6th ed., pp. 477–503. Philadelphia:
Branch DW, et al. (2008). Immunologic disorders in
pregnancy. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 313–339. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and
October 20, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
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