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What is Potter’s Syndrome?

Potter’s Syndrome or Potter’s Sequence is a group of features that can be the result of too little amniotic fluid surrounding the baby while in the uterus. When a foetus is developing normally it will continually swallow amniotic fluid and the kidneys will process it.

Babies with Potter’s syndrome have kidney or urinary tract problems meaning they cannot produce the correct amount of urine.  This means there is a low amount of amniotic fluid which can result in underdeveloped lungs. Also the lack of fluid to provide protection from the uterus walls can cause typical facial features (Potter facies). These may include a flattened nose, recessed chin, skin folds covering the corners of the eyes (epicanthal folds) and low-set abnormal ears.

What Causes Potter’s Syndrome?

The cause of Potter’s Syndrome is not always identified, but sometimes it is genetic.

How is Potter’s Syndrome Diagnosed?

Ultrasound scanning can diagnose Potter’s Syndrome. A health professional will look for low levels of amniotic fluid, kidney abnormalities, underdevelopment of the lungs or facial features on an ultrasound scan.

Sometimes a diagnosis is not until the baby is born though. In these cases, health professionals will identity low levels of urine or a difficulty breathing, as symptoms.

What Treatments are there for Potter’s Syndrome?

The appropriate treatment will depend on the underlying cause – which will also be tested for. All of the following options are possible treatments, depending on the cause:

  • Dialysis (removal of toxins from the kidneys)
  • Kidney transplant
  • Surgery to remove an obstruction from the urinary tract
  • Resuscitation
  • Ventilation
  • Medication

In some cases, surgery may even be available to babies during pregnancy.

What is the Prognosis for babies with Potter’s Syndrome?

The prognosis of babies with Potter’s syndrome depends on the underlying cause. Unfortunately, many babies do not survive because they have health problems affecting multiple organ systems. However, the chance of surviving increases if the baby’s lungs have had time to mature and the kidney problems can be treated.

It is important for parents to remain fully informed, even with treatment their baby might not survive. If there is a poor long-term outlook, some parents may decide not to perform extreme life-saving measures. When the diagnosis is made prenatally a personalised delivery plan might be needed.

A European study has shown that many abnormalities of the renal tract can be diagnosed  in the second trimester, by ultrasound. This means parents may face the decision of whether to terminate the pregnancy. This is a crucial time for parents to understand the potential outlook so that they can make the right decision.

Where Can I Seek Help if my Baby has Potter’s Syndrome?

We recommend you get advice from your healthcare professionals if your baby has been diagnosed with Potter’s syndrome.

You may also benefit from going to local support groups and talking to other people who have had similar experiences. We work with Charlies Angel Centre, a charity who were set up to provide support and counselling to bereaved parents, following the loss of their own ‘Potter’s Angel’. They offer free counselling, support groups and social events to help families both pre-and-postnatally.

How Can Pryers Help?

Pryers have helped parents claim compensation when doctors failed to fully inform them, resulting in the avoidable birth of a child with extreme health conditions. Speak to our experts if you would like to know more.

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