Early Detection of Isolated Severe Congenital Heart Defects Is Associated with a Lower Threshold to Terminate the Pregnancy: The Added Value of a First-Trimester Scan in Isolated Severe CHDs

M.A. Lugthart, E. Verbaarschot, Amber E. L. van Nisselrooij, K. van de Kamp, C.E. Kleinrouweler, Monique Haak, Lieke Rozendaal, Ingeborg H. Linskens, J. Hruda, R.J.M. Snijders, E. van Leeuwen, E. Pajkrt

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Introduction: Early detection of isolated severe congenital heart defects (CHDs) allows extra time for chromosomal analysis and informed decision making, resulting in improved perinatal management and patient satisfaction. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the value of an additional first-trimester screening scan compared to only a second-trimester scan in fetuses diagnosed with isolated severe CHDs. Prenatal detection rate, time of prenatal diagnosis, and pregnancy outcome were evaluated in the Netherlands after implementation of a national screening program. Materials and Methods: We performed a retrospective geographical cohort study and included 264 pre- and postnatally diagnosed isolated severe CHD cases between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2015, in the Amsterdam region. Severe CHD was defined as potentially life threatening if intervention within the first year of life was required. Two groups were defined: those with a first- and second-trimester anomaly scan (group 1) and those with a second-trimester anomaly scan only (group 2). A first-trimester scan was defined as a scan between 11 + 0 and 13 + 6 weeks of gestation. Results: Overall, the prenatal detection rate for isolated severe CHDs was 65%; 63% were detected before 24 weeks of gestation (97% of all prenatally detected CHDs). Prenatal detection rate was 70.2% in the group with a first- and second-trimester scan (group 1) and 58% in the group with a second-trimester scan only (group 2) (p < 0.05). Median gestational age at detection was 19 + 6 (interquartile range [IQR] 15 + 4 - 20 + 5) in group 1 versus 20 + 3 (IQR: 20 + 0 - 21 + 1) in group 2 (p < 0.001). In group 1, 22% were diagnosed before 18 weeks of gestation. Termination of pregnancy rate in group 1 and group 2 were 48% and 27%, respectively (p < 0.01). Median gestational age at termination did not differ between the two groups. Conclusion: Prenatal detection rate of isolated severe CHDs and termination of pregnancy rate was higher in the group with both a first- and second-trimester scan. We found no differences between timing of terminations. The additional time after diagnosis allows for additional genetic testing and optimal counseling of expectant parents regarding prognosis and perinatal management, so that well-informed decisions can be made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
JournalFetal Diagnosis and Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • First-trimester anomaly scan
  • Isolated severe congenital heart defects
  • Prenatal detection rate

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