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Amniotic band syndrome (ABS) is a rare birth defect in which bands of tissue inside the sac of fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb tangle around the baby’s body causing injury. This happens when there is a rupture in the inside sac (amnion). This rupture occurs randomly and is not related to anything a mom did or did not do during pregnancy. It is also not caused by a genetic condition.

If left untreated, the amniotic bands wrap tighter around the affected limbs or body parts, which can lead to limb deformity, webbed toes or fingers, or defects of the head, face, or spine.

If your baby has been diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome, we understand the worry and anxiety you may have. Our leading team of specialists at the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute are uniquely equipped to help you and your baby. Working with a multidisciplinary team, we comprehensively monitor and treat this condition, using the safest techniques to treat your child before or after delivery.

Amniotic Band Syndrome
This graphic shows a baby with ABS. Bands of tissue tangle around the baby's feet.

How Is ABS Diagnosed?

A routine ultrasound usually detects ABS between week 12 and 18 of pregnancy. At the Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute, we examine each case of ABS closely to confirm that the condition is actually ABS, and not a uterine fold. If we find an amniotic band, our team of doctors and nurses focus on the best way to prevent progressive injury.

How is ABS Managed and Treated During Pregnancy?

If your doctor suspects this condition, a follow-up ultrasound may be performed to examine your baby for other abnormalities. A Doppler ultrasound test is then used to measure how severely the blood flow is restricted by the tightening bands. These tests will determine the extent of the ABS and the best course of treatment for you and your baby.

If the amniotic band is touching your baby but not causing injury or cutting off blood flow, no surgery is necessary. If we find that the amniotic band is impeding blood flow to a limb, entangling the umbilical cord, or threatening to cause a deformity, fetoscopic surgery may be an option.

Fetal Surgery for ABS

During this procedure, the surgeon inserts a pencil-tip-sized scope in the uterus and uses a laser or special instrument to cut the amniotic band. This procedure immediately reduces the pressure on the affected body part and allows it to develop normally, preventing any further damage.

Our team of specialists at the Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute are here to support you by answering all of your questions, and carefully navigating your through the treatment option that’s right for you and your family.

Depending on the extent of the amniotic bands, we may recommend that your baby be delivered by the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute team at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – St. Louis where they will be cared for by our experienced neonatologists and pediatric specialists. After your baby is born, our plastic surgeons and orthopedic specialists will examine the affected limbs and areas of the body to determine if any additional treatment is needed.

In some cases, babies will need a number of follow-up surgeries to improve the appearance and function of the affected body part.

We understand that amniotic band syndrome can be a scary diagnosis. That’s why we’re available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-268-4037 or toll free at 877-SSM-FETL (877-776-3385).

While we can’t change the diagnosis, we can provide you expert care and support, helping your baby get the best start in life.

Patient Stories About Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS)

At the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute, we understand the fear and confusion that come with the diganosis of a prenatal medical condition. We share these patient stories to offer comfort, hope, and inspiration from other parents who have been where you are. Know that you are not alone - our team is here to support you every step of the way.

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