Fetal echogenic bowel by ultrasound: What is the clinical significance? Academic Article uri icon


  • Echogenic bowel is diagnosed in 0.2% to 1.4% of second trimester ultrasonographic examinations. This finding occurs as a normal variant in the second trimester but also has been associated with several pathologic conditions that include cystic fibrosis, chromosomal abnormalities and in utero infection with cytomegalovirus and toxoplasmosis. Ultrasound assessment of echogenic bowel is usually subjective by comparing the echogenicity with adjacent bone or liver. The diagnosis of fetal echogenic bowel in the second trimester has significant implications for prenatal management. Fetal echogenic bowel should be considered an important marker of placental damage. This finding in the second trimester is strongly associated with adverse pregnancy outcome due to utero-placental insufficiency, particularly in women with elevated maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein concentration due to severe feto-maternal bleeding. This review focuses on the definition and diagnosis of this entity and problems raised by echogenic bowel due to subjectivity of the diagnosis. It also includes the pathophysiology in the different conditions and the prevalence of each condition. Based on this review, we suggest the evaluation that is needed, as well as the recommendations to follow-up, during the remaining term of pregnancy according to the literature.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007