Magnetophysiologic and echocardiographic comparison of blocked atrial bigeminy and 2:1 atrioventricular block in the fetus

Delonia L. Wiggins, Janette F. Strasburger, Nina L. Gotteiner, Bettina Cuneo, Ronald T. Wakai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background Blocked atrial bigeminy (BAB) and second-degree atrioventricular block with 2:1 conduction block (2:1 AVB) both present as ventricular bradycardia and can be difficult to distinguish by echocardiography. Since the prognosis and clinical management of these rhythms are different, an accurate diagnosis is essential. Objective To identify magnetic and mechanical heart rate and rhythm parameters that could reliably distinguish BAB from 2:1 AVB. Methods A retrospective study of ten BAB and seven 2:1 AVB subjects was performed, using fMCG and pulsed Doppler ultrasound. Results Distinguishing BAB from 2:1 AVB by using fMCG was relatively straightforward because in BAB the ectopic P wave (P′) occurred early, resulting in a bigeminal (short-long) atrial rhythm. The normalized coupling interval of the ectopic beat (PP′ of the blocked beat to PP of the conducted beat) was 0.29 ± 0.03. In contrast, the echocardiographic assessment of inflow-outflow gave a normalized mechanical coupling interval (AA′/AA) near 0.5, which made it difficult to distinguish BAB from 2:1 AVB. Heart rate distinguished most subjects with BAB from those with 2:1 AVB (82 ± 5.7 beats/min vs 69 ± 4.2 beats/min), but was not a completely reliable indicator. In most subjects, BAB alternated with sinus rhythm or other rhythms, resulting in complex heart rate and rhythm patterns. Conclusions Fetal BAB and 2:1 AV block can be difficult to distinguish using echocardiography because in many fetuses with BAB the mechanical rhythm does not accurately reflect the magnetic rhythm. fMCG provides a more reliable means of making a differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1192-1198
Number of pages7
JournalHeart rhythm
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Atrioventricular block
  • Bigeminy
  • Blocked atrial bigeminy
  • Fetal arrhythmia
  • Fetal magnetocardiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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