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A fetal diagnostic center's referral rate for perinatal palliative care.



Fetal specialists support standardizing the practice of offering women palliative care for life limiting fetal diagnoses. However, there is little data available regarding what fetal specialists do in practice. Since 2003, our center has kept a database of all women referred for fetal complications.


Retrospective electronic chart review of pregnant women between 2006 and 2012 using UCSD's Fetal Care and Genetics Center referral database. Objectives were to determine: (I) how many high risk pregnancies referred to the University of California San Diego Medical Center (UCSD) over a 6-year period have potentially life limiting fetal diagnoses; (II) pregnancy outcome; and (III) referral rate to perinatal palliative care.


Between July 2006 and July 2012, 1,144 women were referred to UCSD's Fetal Care and Genetics Center, a tertiary care center. Of that cohort, 332 women (29%) were diagnosed prenatally with a potentially life limiting fetal diagnosis. Most women were Hispanic or Latino, married, and had previous children. The median gestation at confirmed diagnosis was 19 weeks. Trisomy 13, Trisomy 18, and anencephaly comprised 21% of cases. The pregnancy outcome was determined in 95% cases: 56% therapeutic abortion, 16% intrauterine fetal demise, and 23% live birth. Only 11% of cases were referred to perinatal palliative care.


The vast majority of women with potentially life limiting fetal diagnoses are not referred to perinatal palliative care. Evaluation of how to integrate palliative care into high-risk obstetrics is needed.

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