Fetal supraventricular tachycardia complicated by hydrops fetalis: A role for direct fetal intramuscular therapy

Barbara V. Parilla*, Janette F. Strasburger, Michael L. Socol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Maternally administered digoxin for the treatment of fetal supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) complicated by hydrops fetalis may be ineffective secondary to poor transplacental drug transfer. We present our experience with eight pregnancies treated with transplacental therapy or combined maternal and direct fetal intramuscular therapy. Response to treatment following maternal intravenous administration (MIV) of digoxin or a combination of fetal intramuscular (FIM) digoxin and MIV is described for eight hydropic fetuses during nine successful pharmacologic conversions. The MIV digoxin was administered using standard loading and maintenance protocols. FIM was administered at a dose of 88 μg/kg q12-24 hours, to a maximum of three injections in the fetal buttock. Time to onset of the first two hours of sinus rhythm (TO2°), time to onset > 90% sinus rhythm (TO > 90%), and time to resolution of hydrops fetalis (HF) were noted. The mean heart rate was 257 ± 36 beats/minute and the mean gestational age was 29 ± 4.8 weeks. Fetal SVT was due to a reentrant mechanism in all cases. For the three fetuses that underwent successful cardioversion following MIV digoxin (all required additional maternal antiarrhythmic drugs), TO2° was 145 ± 114 hours, TO > 90% was 176 ± 55 hours, and HF resolved in 41 ± 37 days. Initial combined FIM and MIV therapy in four fetuses resulted in a TO2° of 5.5 ± 4 hours, TO > 90% of 22 ± 14 hours, and resolution of HF in 25 ± 21 days. For the two failed cardioversions with transplacental treatment alone (one fetus had recurrent SVT with hydrops after initial successful cardioversion with MIV), TO2° was 203 ± 180 hours and TO > 90% was 313 ± 270 hours. Once FIM was begun in these two fetuses, TO2° was 17 ± 7 hours and TO > 90% was 60 ± 13 hours; HF resolved in 45 days in one fetus, whereas the other fetus never had resolution of hydrops despite 100 days of antiarrhythmic therapy. Direct fetal intramuscular injection of digoxin combined with transplacental therapy appears to shorten the time to initial conversion of SVT and to sustain sinus rhythm in the fetus with SVT complicated by hydrops fetalis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-486
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican journal of perinatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • Digoxin
  • fetal supraventricular tachycardia
  • hydrops fetalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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