Over the past 40 years, the medical and surgical management of congenital heart disease has advanced considerably. However, substantial room for improvement remains for certain lesions that have high rates of morbidity and mortality. Although most congenital cardiac conditions are well tolerated during fetal development, certain abnormalities progress in severity over the course of gestation and impair the development of other organs, such as the lungs or airways. It follows that intervention during gestation could potentially slow or reverse elements of disease progression and improve prognosis for certain congenital heart defects. In this review, we detail specific congenital cardiac lesions that may benefit from fetal intervention, some of which already have documented improved outcomes with fetal interventions, and the state-of-the-science in each of these areas. This review includes the most relevant studies from a PubMed database search from 1970 to the present using key words such as fetal cardiac, fetal intervention, fetal surgery, and EXIT procedure. Fetal intervention in congenital cardiac surgery is an exciting frontier that promises further improvement in congenital heart disease outcomes. When fetuses who can benefit from fetal intervention are identified and appropriately referred to centers of excellence in this area, patient care will improve.
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