Early detection of fetal cardiac abnormalities: How effective is it and how should we manage these patients?

Sally Ann B. Clur, Caterina M. Bilardo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Congenital heart defects (CHDs), the most commonly occurring congenital malformations, cause significant mortality and morbidity. With the recognition of early markers for CHD and the development of better ultrasound resolution, interest has turned toward performing a screening anomaly scan, including the heart, together with the nuchal scan. It is also possible, with adequate skill and training, to competently perform an echocardiogram <16weeks' gestation. This article reviews the detection of major CHD in the first trimester and early second trimester including specific markers that help to identify high-risk groups for early fetal echocardiography (EFEC). CHD detection during first-trimester screening is low (2.3-56%) depending on the center's experience and the population studied. An increased nuchal translucency, abnormal ductus venosus flow, and tricuspid regurgitation in the first trimester are associated with an increased CHD risk and can be used together to identify high-risk fetuses for EFEC. EFEC requires skilled scanning and the expertise of a fetal echocardiographer. In high-risk populations, it is 78.5% sensitive with a 74.5% concordance between the EFEC and the mid-gestational echocardiogram. The availability of qualified personnel and diagnostic accuracy are prerequisites before EFEC can be introduced into management protocols. The limitations of EFEC should be recognized, and a later confirmatory echocardiogram is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1245
Number of pages11
JournalPrenatal diagnosis
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

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