Donald School Journal of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology

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VOLUME 3 , ISSUE 2 ( April-June, 2009 ) > List of Articles

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Fetal Arrhythmias: A Clinical Review

Zoltan Papp, Ágnes Harmath, Barbara Pete, Julia Hajdu, Valeria Váradi

Keywords : Doppler,Fetal arrhythmias,follow-up

Citation Information : Papp Z, Harmath Á, Pete B, Hajdu J, Váradi V. Fetal Arrhythmias: A Clinical Review. Donald School J Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2009; 3 (2):25-37.

DOI: 10.5005/jp-journals-10009-1012

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published Online: 00-06-2009

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2009; Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd.


Abstract

Fetal rhythm abnormalities occur in 2% of pregnancies. They are usually identified by the obstetrician or midwifes after 20 weeks. There are four different methods used to assess fetal arrhythmias: scalp electrodes attached to electrocardiographic recordings, magnetocardiography (FMCG), fetal electrocardiographic recordings from the maternal abdomen, and fetal echocardiography (M-mode, pulsed-Doppler, Tissue-Doppler). In everyday practice the Doppler method was found to be the most useful method in the diagnosis and therapy of fetal arrhythmias. Doppler derived mechanical PR interval raised the possibility of refining the prenatal diagnosis of AV conduction abnormalities. A PR interval of >150 ms on Doppler, FMCG or postnatal ECG has been determined to be prolonged. Extrasystoles are most common cause of fetal arrhythmias, and are most often premature atrial contractions (PACs), what are usually identified in third trimester fetuses and their frequency may be highly variable. These are usually benign, resolving just before or shortly after birth. The follow-up is necessary, because some (1-3%) of affected fetuses have intermittent runs of supraventricular tachycardia. Ventricular tachycardia is rare during fetal life. With echocardiography in the setting of fetal tachycardia the findings of atrioventricular dissociation with a ventricular rate that is faster than the atrial rate suggests ventricular tachycardia. If there is 1:1 retrograde conduction it is impossible to distinguish between ventricular and supraventricular tachycardia. Atrial flutter accounted for 26.2% of all cases of fetal tachyarrhythmias and supraventricular tachycardia for 73.2%. Fouron and coworkers proposed to plan the management of the fetal tachyarrhythmia based on analysis of pulsed-Doppler recordings of fetal heart's blood flow. They determined short V-A tachycardia, when V-A (ventriculoatrial period) was shorter than AV (atrio-ventricular period) period. In the therapy of fetal supraventricular tachycardia there are different protocols, the most commonly used drugs are: digoxin, sotalol, amiodarone, flecainide. Persistent fetal sinus bradycardia is a rare condition and has been reported with central nervous system abnormalities, maternal treatment with beta blockers, excessive vagal tone, hydrops, long QT syndrome, intrauterine growth retardation and could be a sign of maternal anti-SSA/Ro antibodies. Prenatal sinus bradycardia or recognition of 2nd degree AV block may lead to early detection and treatment of long QT syndrome. Early detection of incomplete AV block, in cases of maternal anti SSA, SSB autoantibodies, successfully identifies a group at highest risk developing permanent AV block. The anti-inflammatory effects of dexamethasone might have interrupted on-going damage of the conduction system secondary to maternal autoantibodies. If the fetal arrhythmia resulted fetal hydrops, the mortality is high and the risk of late neurological morbidity must be taken into consideration. As a result of close follow-up, transplacentar treatment and well-organized perinatal management, the survival of sustained fetal arrhythmia significantly improved (50% versus 15%).


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