Fetal Echocardiography and Indications

  • Melih Atahan Güven

Turk J Obstet Gynecol 2008;5(3):155-165

Congenital heart diseases are encountered in 0.8% of live births and are among the most frequently diagnosed malformations. At least half of these anomalies end up with death or require surgical interventions and are responsible for 30% of the perinatal mortality.

Fetal echocardiography is the sum of knowledge, skill and orientation rather than knowing the embryologic details of the fetal heart.

The purpose of fetal echocardiography is to document the presence of normal fetal cardiac anatomy and rhythm in high risk group and to define the anomaly and arrhythmia if present.

A certain sequence should be followed during the evaluation of fetal heart.

Sequential segmental analysis (SSA) and basic definition terminology made it possible to determine a lot of complex cardiac anomalies during prenatal period.

By the end of 1970’s, Shinebourne started using sequential segmental analysis for fetal cardiac evaluation and today, prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease is possible without any confusion. In this manner, whole fetal heart can be evaluated as the relation of three segments (atria, ventricles and the great arteries) with each other, irrelevant of complexity of a possible cardiac anomaly.

Presence of increased nuchal thickness during early gestation and abnormal four-chamber-view during ultrasonography by the obstetrician presents a clear indication for fetal echocardiography,however, one should keep in mind that 80-90% of the babies born with a congenital heart disease do not have a familial or maternal risk factor.

In addition, it should be remembered that expectant mothers with diabetes mellitus pose an indication for fetal echocardiography.

Keywords: Fetal Echocardiography, Fetal Echocardiography Indications, Pregnancy