Predicting the severity of congenital high airway obstruction syndrome

Jessica L. Roybal, Kenneth W. Liechty, Holly L. Hedrick, Michael W. Bebbington, Mark P. Johnson, Beverly G. Coleman, N. Scott Adzick, Alan W. Flake

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39 Scopus citations


Background: Congenital high airway obstruction syndrome (CHAOS) is caused by complete or near-complete obstruction of the fetal airway. Obstruction sets in motion a sequence of events that can ultimately lead to fetal demise. However, on rare occasions in utero airway decompression occurs, reversing syndromic findings and improving the prognosis. In our relatively large series of CHAOS patients, we have observed a spectrum of clinical severity. The aim of this study was to identify the prenatal characteristics of CHAOS predictive of a milder postnatal course. Methods: The medical charts of all fetuses observed at our institution with the diagnosis of CHAOS were reviewed for radiologic findings, delivery information, perinital course, autopsy or discharge report, and long-term follow-up. Results: Between 1996 and 2008, 12 fetuses with CHAOS were identified. Four fetuses had no evidence of hydrops on initial imaging. Of the 8 fetuses displaying hydrops, 3 were terminated, 2 died in utero, and 1 with multiple anomalies died at birth. Six fetuses were delivered via the ex utero intrapartum therapy procedure for attempted salvage, and 5 of the 6 survived the neonatal period including all 4 fetuses without hydrops. Serial prenatal imaging demonstrated less severe signs of CHAOS in 3 fetuses, and in 2 of them, direct laryngoscopy revealed a tiny opening in the airway. All 3 fetuses that showed improvement on serial imaging survived the neonatal period and were discharged home by 2-10 weeks of age. Conclusions: Although the natural history of CHAOS is variable, trends in prenatal ultrasound findings are highly predictive of postnatal outcome and are a valuable guide to prenatal counseling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1633-1639
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • EXIT
  • Ex utero intrapartum therapy
  • Hydrops fetalis


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