Fetal Cardiac Function: Technical Considerations and Potential Research and Clinical Applications
Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy, 08/17/2012
Crispi F et al. – Functional fetal echocardiography is a promising tool that may soon be incorporated into clinical practice. Research is warranted to further refine the contribution of fetal cardiac assessment to the diagnosis, monitoring, or prediction of outcomes in various fetal conditions.
- Fetal echocardiography was initially used to detect structural anomalies but has more recently also been proposed to assess fetal cardiac function.
- This review summarizes technical issues and limitations in fetal cardiac function evaluation, as well as its potential research and clinical applications.
- Functional echocardiography has been demonstrated to select high–risk populations and to be associated with outcome in several fetal conditions including intrauterine growth restriction, twin–to–twin transfusion syndrome, maternal diabetes, and congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
- Fetal heart evaluation is challenging due to the smallness and high heart rate of the fetus and restricted access to the fetus far from the transducer.
- Due to these limitations and differences in cardiac function which are related to fetal maturation, cardiovascular parameters should be validated in the fetus and used with caution.
- Despite these precautions, in expert hands and with appropriate ultrasound equipment, evaluation of cardiac function is feasible in most fetuses.