Progression of ultrasound findings of fetal syphilis after maternal treatment

Martha W.F. Rac, Stefanie N. Bryant, Donald D. McIntire, Joseph B. Cantey, Diane M. Twickler, George D. Wendel, Jeanne S. Sheffield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective The purpose of this study was to evaluate ultrasound findings of fetal syphilis and to describe their progression after maternal treatment. Study Design This was a retrospective cohort study from September 1981 to June 2011 of seropositive women after 18 weeks of gestation who had an ultrasound before treatment to evaluate for fetal syphilis. Only those women who received treatment after the initial ultrasound scan, but before delivery, were included. If the initial ultrasound scan was abnormal, serial sonography was performed until resolution of the abnormality or delivery. Patient demographics, ultrasound findings, stage of syphilis, delivery, and infant outcomes were recorded. Standard statistical analyses were performed. Kaplan-Meier estimates were constructed to estimate time to resolution.

Results Two hundred thirty-five women met the inclusion criteria; 73 of them (30%) had evidence of fetal syphilis on initial ultrasound scan. Abnormalities included hepatomegaly (79%), placentomegaly (27%), polyhydramnios (12%), ascites (10%) and abnormal middle cerebral arterial Doppler assessment (33%). After treatment, middle cerebral arterial Doppler assessment abnormalities, ascites, and polyhydramnios resolved first, followed by placentomegaly and finally hepatomegaly. Infant outcomes were available for 173 deliveries; of these, 32 infants (18%) were diagnosed with congenital syphilis. Congenital syphilis was more common when antenatal ultrasound abnormalities were present (39% vs 12%; P <.001). Infant examination findings at delivery were similar between women with and without an abnormal pretreatment ultrasound scan. However, in those infants with congenital syphilis, hepatomegaly was the most frequent abnormality found, regardless of antenatal ultrasound findings.

Conclusion Sonographic signs of fetal syphilis confer a higher risk of congenital syphilis at delivery for all maternal stages. Hepatomegaly develops early and resolves last after antepartum treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426.e1-426.e6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • fetal syphilis
  • pregnancy
  • resolution
  • ultrasound finding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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