Fetal and neonatal abnormalities due to congenital syphilis: A literature review.


Objective: The recent recrudescence of syphilis among women of childbearing age is associated with an increasing number of cases of congenital syphilis. We aimed to summarize the fetal and neonatal abnormalities due to congenital syphilis infection, particularly signs amenable to prenatal diagnosis.

Methods: Eligible studies were retrieved from the PubMed collection database. Articles focusing on postnatal and antenatal abnormalities covered the periods from 1969 to 2019 and 1975-2019, respectively. This review included cohort studies, case series and case reports reporting findings regarding congenital syphilis infections described before and/or after birth. Articles were reviewed by three experts in prenatal diagnosis, and all findings were classified as amenable or not amenable to prenatal diagnosis.

Results: A total of 432 cases of congenital syphilis infection were reported. Abnormalities were described antenatally in 161 cases, postnatally in 319 cases, and in both the antenatal and postnatal periods in 57 cases. The most frequently reported signs amenable to prenatal diagnosis were abdominal abnormalities (hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, and bowel abnormalities), fetal growth restriction, and elevated middle cerebral artery peak systolic velocity in the context of ascites or atypical hydrops. Brain abnormalities were rare and never isolated. In the neonatal period, the most common abnormalities were hepatosplenomegaly, bone damage and skin lesions.

Conclusion: We found that no individual sonographic sign or pattern of signs is pathognomonic for fetal syphilis. In fetuses with ultrasound abnormalities suggestive of congenital infection, syphilis must be considered as part of the work-up.