DOI: 10.1002/pd.6517 ISSN: 0197-3851

Fetal hyperechoic kidneys: Diagnostic considerations and genetic testing strategies

Christine B. Hertenstein, Kristen A. Miller, Judy A. Estroff, Karin J. Blakemore
  • Genetics (clinical)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Isolated bilateral hyperechoic kidneys (HEK) on prenatal ultrasound presents diagnostic, prognostic, and counseling challenges. Prognosis ranges from normal outcome to lethal postnatally. Presence/absence of extra‐renal malformations, gestational age at presentation, amniotic fluid volume, and renal size may distinguish underlying etiologies and thereby prognosis, as prognosis is highly dependent upon underlying etiology. An underlying genetic diagnosis, clearly impactful, is determined in only 55%–60% of cases. We conducted a literature review of chromosomal (aneuploidies, copy number variants [CNVs]) single genes and other etiologies of fetal bilateral HEK, summarized how this information informs prognosis and recurrence risk, and critically assessed laboratory testing strategies. The most commonly identified etiologies are autosomal recessive and autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease and microdeletions at 17q12 involving HNF1b. With rapid gene discovery, alongside advances in prenatal imaging and fetal phenotyping, the growing list of single gene diagnoses includes ciliopathies, overgrowth syndromes, and renal tubular dysgenesis. At present, microarray and gene panels or whole exome sequencing (WES) are first line tests employed for diagnostic evaluation. Whole genome sequencing (WGS), with the ability to detect both single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and CNVs, would be expected to provide the highest diagnostic yield.

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