OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of prenatal therapeutic interventions on perinatal outcome in pregnancies complicated by isolated fetal hydrothorax with hydrops. METHODS: A systematic review of the literature from January 1982 to January 2006 of perinatal outcome in pregnancies with isolated fetal hydrothorax with hydrops with any form of prenatal treatment was conducted. RESULTS: Forty-four articles met our selection criteria, reporting a total of 172 fetuses treated prenatally. Reported treatment options were single (n = 13) or serial thoracocentesis (n = 18), thoraco-amniotic shunt placement (n = 100) or a combination of thoracocentesis and shunting (n = 36). Four case-reports described pleurodesis with OK-432, (n = 3) and intrapleural injection of autologous blood (n = 2). Overall survival rate was 63%, ranging from 54% for single thoracocentesis to 80% in the 5 cases treated with pleurodesis, without statistically significant differences between the treatment modalities. Shunt-placement with or without prior thoracocentesis was most often described, with survival rates of 67 and 61% respectively. DISCUSSION: The available literature consists exclusively of case reports and case series. This systematic review suggests that with prenatal intervention, perinatal survival rates around 63% are possible. There is a need for prospective, adequately controlled studies with long-term follow-up to determine the best treatment and more reliable outcome data in pregnancies complicated by fetal hydrothorax with hydrops.