Tricuspid valve agenesis/atresia (TVA) is a congenital cardiac malformation where the tricuspid valve is not formed. It is hypothesized that TVA results from a failure of the normal rightward expansion of the atrioventricular canal (AVC). We tested predictions of this hypothesis by morphometric analyses of the AVC in fetal hearts. We used high-resolution MRI and ultrasonography on a post-mortem fetal heart with TVA and with tricuspid valve stenosis (TVS) to validate the position of measurement landmarks that were to be applied to clinical echocardiograms. This revealed a much deeper right atrioventricular sulcus in TVA than in TVS. Subsequently, serial echocardiograms of in utero fetuses between 12 and 38 weeks of gestation were included (n = 23 TVA, n = 16 TVS, and n = 74 controls) to establish changes in AVC width and ventricular dimensions over time. Ventricular length and width and estimated fetal weight all increased significantly with age, irrespective of diagnosis. Heart rate did not differ between groups. However, in the second trimester, in TVA, the ratio of AVC to ventricular width was significantly lower compared to TVS and controls. This finding supports the hypothesis that TVA is due to a failed rightward expansion of the AVC. Notably, we found in the third trimester that the AVC to ventricular width normalized in TVA fetuses as their mitral valve area was greater than in controls. Hence, TVA associates with a quantifiable under-development of the AVC. This under-development is obscured in the third trimester, likely because of adaptational growth that allows for increased stroke volume of the left ventricle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-806
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric Cardiology
Issue number4
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Congenital malformations
  • Development
  • Morphometry
  • Ultrasound

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