The evaluation of cardiac biometry in major cardiac defects detected in early pregnancy


The objective was to evaluate early cardiac biometry in fetuses with structural cardiac defects between 10 and 17 weeks of gestation using our normative data about fetal heart biometry. A retrospective case series, patients were selected from all cases with congenital heart disease diagnosed between 10 and 17 weeks of gestation in our prenatal unit between 1999 and 2000. A schematic sonographic examination, including nuchal translucency (NT) thickness measurements, was performed and was followed by fetal Doppler echocardiography. The transversal heart diameter, both ventricular dimensions, heart area, heart circumference, thoracic diameter, thoracic circumference, thoracic area, pulmonary trunk diameter and aortic diameter were measured and the cardiothoracic ratios were calculated. Doppler evaluation of the umbilical arteries, ductus venosus and umbilical vein was performed. Fetal karyotyping was obtained by amniocentesis or chorionic villous sampling. During the study period, 31 cases of congenital heart disease between 10 and 17 weeks of gestation were diagnosed. Of these, two fetuses presented with ectopia cordis and six with insufficient cardiac biometric measurements. In the remaining 23 fetuses, different complex abnormalities with a high rate of chromosomal abnormalities (91%) were present. Fetal heart biometry was normal in 22% and abnormal in 78%. NT thickness measurements were performed before 14 weeks of gestation and ten of 12 fetuses (83%) presented with an increased NT. Both fetuses with normal NT showed an abnormal fetal heart biometry. Venous Doppler evaluation was performed in 22 cases and 12 fetuses (55%) demonstrated an abnormal venous Doppler. There were ten fetuses (45%) with normal venous Doppler; in seven of these cases, fetal heart biometry was partly abnormal. This study shows the feasibility of first and early second trimesters' fetal echocardiography and the applicability of cardiac biometry in these instances. In this context, early fetal heart biometry and NT thickness measurements may be complementary methods for the prenatal diagnosis of some major congenital heart defects. In early pregnancy, some cardiac defects like tricuspid valve dysplasia, coarctation of the aorta, aortic stenosis, tetralogy of Fallot or pulmonary stenosis may already show similar changes in the relation of the diameters of the fetal heart and great arteries, as seen in the second trimester. Therefore, evaluating the different cardiac ratios may have a high diagnostic value in early pregnancy.

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Smrcek, .J., Gembruch, .U., Krokowski, .M. et al. The evaluation of cardiac biometry in major cardiac defects detected in early pregnancy. Arch Gynecol Obstet 268, 94–101 (2003).

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  • Biometry of the fetal heart Fetal heart Congenital heart disease Fetal echocardiography Nuchal translucency Ductus venosus First trimester Prenatal diagnosis Fetus