Alpha thalassemia major--new mutations, intrauterine management, and outcomes.

Vichinsky EP

Alpha thalassemia disorders are a group of hereditary anemias caused by absent or decreased production of the alpha chain of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin Bart's hydrops fetalis is usually a fatal in-utero disease caused by absence of the alpha genes. However, the molecular and genotypic expression of hemoglobin Bart's varies and increasing numbers of births are being reported. Population screening and prenatal diagnosis of at-risk couples is essential but often not performed. Most affected pregnancies are often undetected, resulting in severe fetal and maternal complications. Noninvasive monitoring by Doppler ultrasonagraphy with intrauterine transfusion therapy has changed the prognosis for this disorder. These advances in intrauterine and postnatal therapy have resulted in ethical dilemmas for the family and the provider.