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Diagnostic amniocentesis

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


Amniocentesis is a technique for withdrawing amniotic fluid from the uterine cavity using a needle via a transabdominal approach. Laboratory tests to evaluate fetal health can be performed on amniotic fluid since this fluid is largely composed of fetal substances: urine, secretions, exfoliated cells, and transudate.


The most common diagnostic indications for obtaining amniotic fluid are prenatal genetic studies and assessment of fetal lung maturity. Other indications include, but are not limited to, evaluation of the fetus for infection, degree of hemolytic anemia, blood or platelet type, hemoglobinopathy, and neural tube defects.

Amniocentesis is also performed as a therapeutic procedure to remove excess amniotic fluid, such as in symptomatic polyhydramnios or twin-twin transfusion syndrome, or to reduce volume and pressure of amniotic fluid in cases of prolapsed fetal membranes in the second trimester to facilitate placement of an emergency cerclage [1]. This procedure is termed amnioreduction and is discussed separately. (See "Twin-twin transfusion syndrome: Management and outcome", section on 'Amnioreduction' and "Polyhydramnios", section on 'Amnioreduction' and "Transvaginal cervical cerclage", section on 'Replacement of prolapsed membranes'.)


Amniocentesis, like other potentially morbid procedures, should be preceded by appropriate counseling regarding the:

Purpose of the procedure

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 25, 2017.
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