Vasa praevia

Vasa praevia refers to a situation where there are aberrant fetal vessels crossing over or in close proximity to the internal cervical os, ahead of the fetal presenting part. These vessels are within the amniotic membranes, without the support of the placenta. Vasa praevia is a rare but potentially catastrophic cause of antepartum hemorrhage.

Vasa previa can be of two types:

These vessels are unsupported by Wharton jelly or placental tissue and are at risk of rupture during labor.

Vasa praevia occurs in 0.6 per 1000 pregnancies 11

Risk factors include:

Prior to rupture of the amniotic membrane during labor, compression of the vulnerable fetal blood vessels by the presenting part may lead to fetal heart decelerations and bradycardia.

However once ruptured, vasa praevia will result in brisk vaginal bleeding with rapid fetal exsanguination.

Sonographic features are considered generally specific (~90%) 2.

The diagnosis is often made with transabdominal color Doppler sonography demonstrating flow within vessels which are seen overlying the internal cervical os.  Non-Doppler (greyscale) images may suggest the diagnosis if there are echogenic parallel or circular lines within the placenta near the cervix.

Occasionally a transvaginal scan is required to better visualize aberrant vessels. Transvaginal ultrasound has a reported sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 99-99.8% when performed with color Doppler 12.

If recognized antenatally, vasa previa usually requires an elective cesarean section to avoid the risk of complications during vaginal delivery.

If recognized intrapartum, an emergency cesarean section is usually performed

On antenatal ultrasound consider

Ultrasound - obstetric
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Article information

rID: 13131
System: Obstetrics
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Vasa previa

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: type I with placenta previa
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