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Fetal blood sampling

Alessandro Ghidini, MD
Section Editors
Louise Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD
Deborah Levine, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Fetal blood sampling (FBS) refers to three techniques used to gain access to fetal blood: cordocentesis (also known as percutaneous umbilical blood sampling), intrahepatic blood sampling, and cardiocentesis. FBS is riskier than postnatal venipuncture and interpretation of results can be difficult because of the limited availability of normative fetal laboratory values across gestation.

The techniques for FBS can also be used for intravenous administration of medication or blood products (eg, platelets, red blood cells) to the fetus. (See "Intrauterine fetal transfusion of red cells" and "Overview of the general approach to diagnosis and treatment of fetal arrhythmias".)


Fetal blood is sampled to aid in the diagnostic evaluation of fetal disorders. A major difference between FBS and venipuncture in children and adults is the relatively high degree of procedure-related risk: FBS can have lethal complications. Since evaluation of amniocytes, chorionic villi, or maternal blood can often provide similar information as fetal blood, FBS should be limited to clinical situations in which use of lower risk diagnostic procedures (amniocentesis, chorionic villous sampling, maternal blood sampling) does not provide adequate or sufficiently timely diagnostic information [1].


The maternal abdomen is cleaned with an antibacterial solution and draped. Aseptic technique should be used.

Location — Prior to fetal viability, FBS can be performed in a room used for sonographic examinations or in a labor room. After viability, the procedure should be performed in proximity to an operating room since an emergency cesarean delivery may be required if nonreassuring fetal heart rate patterns develop during or after the procedure.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 20, 2015.
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