OBJECTIVE--To predict the effect of antenatal ultrasound screening for congenital heart disease and maternal serum screening of Down's syndrome on the practice of paediatric cardiology and paediatric cardiac surgery. DESIGN--A retrospective and prospective ascertainment of all congenital heart disease diagnosed in infancy in 1985-1991. SETTING--One English health region. PATIENTS--All congenital heart disease diagnosed in infancy by echocardiography, cardiac catheterisation, surgery, or necropsy was classified as "complex", "significant", or "minor" and as "detectable" or "not detectable" on a routine antenatal ultrasound scan. RESULTS--1347 infants had congenital heart disease which was "complex" in 13%, "significant" in 55%, and "minor" in 32%. 15% of cases were "detectable" on routine antenatal ultrasound. Assuming 20% detection and termination of 67% of affected pregnancies, liveborn congenital heart disease would be reduced by 2%, infant mortality from congenital heart disease by 5%, and paediatric cardiac surgical activity by 3%. Maternal screening for Down's syndrome, assuming 75% uptake, 60% detection, and termination of all affected pregnancies, would reduce liveborn cases of Down's syndrome by 45%, liveborn cases of congenital heart disease by 3.5%, and cardiac surgery by 2.6%. CONCLUSIONS--Screening for congenital heart disease using the four chamber view in routine obstetric examinations and maternal serum screening for Down's syndrome is likely to have only a small effect on the requirements for paediatric cardiology services and paediatric cardiac surgery.
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