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Histomorphometric features of hydatidiform moles in early pregnancy: relationship to detectability by ultrasound examination

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The majority of partial (PHM) and complete (CHM) hydatidiform moles are diagnosed in early pregnancy. About half are identified as molar on ultrasonographic examination prior to evacuation. It is uncertain whether unsuspected cases represent an intrinsically different molar phenotype or are simply dependant on sonographer expertise. We measured a microscopic parameter, average villus diameter, of evacuated PHMs and CHMs to ascertain the cause of non‐detection on ultrasound.


Fifty‐four molar pregnancies were examined from the files of the Trophoblastic Disease Unit, in which results of an ultrasound examination prior to evacuation were known. In each, the average cross‐sectional diameter of the largest 10 villi was recorded. Maximum villus diameters were compared between gestational age groups (<14 weeks and ≥14 weeks), and ultrasound detection groups (detected (d) and not detected (nd)).


The average maximum villus diameter of the largest hydropic villi was significantly less in the first trimester for both PHMs and CHMs that were undetected by ultrasound examination compared to those identified as molar sonographically (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively). There was no significant difference in the maximum villus diameter between PHMs and CHMs that were not detected sonographically in the first trimester (P = 0.44). Beyond 14 weeks of gestation, there was no significant difference between PHMs detected and undetected sonographically (P = 0.88).


The average diameter of the largest, most hydropic villi, is significantly greater in cases of PHMs and CHMs detected by ultrasound examination in the first trimester compared to that of those not detected sonographically, but beyond 14 weeks such differences are minimal. These findings suggest that, although sonographer expertise could potentially increase ultrasound detection rates somewhat for PHMs and CHMs, a significant proportion of cases demonstrate minimal hydropic change in the first trimester and are therefore likely to remain unidentifiable by ultrasound examination prior to evacuation, even with improved sonographer expertise. Copyright © 2006 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Keywords: complete hydatidiform mole; hydatidiform mole; hydrops; mean villus diameter; partial hydatidiform mole; ultrasound

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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