Fetal tachycardia: Mechanisms and predictors of hydrops fetalis

Zahra J. Naheed, Janette F. Strasburger*, Barbara J. Deal, D. Woodrow Benson, Samuel S. Gidding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study had three objectives: 1) to determine the electrophysiologic mechanisms of fetal supraventricular tachycardia at presentation and postnatally; 2) to identify the clinical and electrophysiologic predictors of hydrops fetalis; and 3) to describe the medium-term follow-up (1 to 7 years) of patients with fetal supraventricular tachycardia. Background. Fetal supraventricular tachycardia causes significant fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Prenatal analysis and postnatal confirmation of fetal supraventricular tachycardia mechanisms have been limited. Methods. Supraventricular tachycardia mechanisms were evaluated by prenatal Doppler/M-mode echocardiography, immediate neonatal surface electrocardiography and postnatal transesophageal electrophysiologic procedures in 30 consecutive patients presenting with fetal supraventricular tachycardia (17 managed prenatally, 13 first managed postnatally). Results. The fetal supraventricular tachycardia mechanism was 1:1 atrioventricular conduction in 22 patients and supraventricular tachycardia with atrioventricular block (atrial flutter) in 8. At the postnatal transesophageal electrophysiologic procedure, tachycardia was induced in 27 of 30 patients; atrioventricular reentrant tachycardia in 25 (93%) of 27 and intraatrial reentrant tachycardia in only 2 (7%) of 27. Hydrops was present in 12 of 30 fetuses. Sustained supraventricular tachycardia (>12 h) and lower gestation at presentation correlated with hydrops (p < 0.02, p < 0.05), but mechanism of tachycardia and heart rate did not. Gestational age at delivery was significantly greater in those who received intrauterine management (39 ± 1.3 vs. 37 ± 2.9 weeks, p = 0.04) despite earlier presentation (32.6 vs. 37.1 weeks). Cesarean section deliveries were reduced in the same group (3 of 17 vs. 11 of 13, p = 0.0006). Conclusions. Atrioventricular reentrant tachycardia was the predominant mechanism of supraventricular tachycardia in the fetus. There was a high association of supraventricular tachycardia with atrioventricular block in utero and accessory atrioventricular connections. Outcome at 1 to 7 years was excellent regardless of severity of illness at clinical presentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1736-1740
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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