ACOG Green Journal: Vasa Previa

Vasa Previa

Vasa previa refers to unprotected fetal vessels running through the membranes over the cervix. Until recently, this condition was associated with an exceedingly high perinatal mortality rate attributable to fetal exsanguination when the membranes ruptured. However, ultrasonography has made it possible to diagnose the condition prenatally, allowing cesarean delivery before labor or rupture of the membranes. Several recent studies have indicated excellent outcomes with prenatally diagnosed vasa previa. However, outcomes continue to be dismal when vasa previa is undiagnosed before labor. Risk factors for vasa previa include second-trimester placenta previa and low-lying placentas, velamentous cord insertion, placentas with accessory lobes, in vitro fertilization, and multifetal gestations. Recognition of individuals who are at risk and screening them will greatly decrease the mortality rate from this condition. Because of the relative rarity of vasa previa, there are no randomized controlled trials to guide management. Therefore, recommendations on the diagnosis and management of vasa previa are based largely on cohort studies and expert opinion. This Clinical Expert Series review addresses the epidemiology, pathophysiology, natural history, diagnosis and management of vasa previa, as well as innovative treatments for the condition.