OBJECTIVE: To describe prenatal abnormalities of cardiac rhythm in patients with prolonged QT interval in the neonatal period. DESIGN: A retrospective analysis of the results of fetal echocardiography and the outcome in patients with prolonged QT interval in the neonatal period who had been referred for prenatal evaluation. SETTING: Two university hospitals. PATIENTS: Nine patients with prolonged QT interval in the neonatal period who had been referred for prenatal evaluation. Fetal echocardiograms were obtained from 24 to 40 weeks of gestation. Indications were fetal bradycardia (five patients), a family history of long QT syndrome (two patients), and complex arrhythmias (two patients). RESULTS: Seven fetuses had persistent sinus bradycardia without ventricular arrhythmias (heart rates 70-120 beats/ min). Five patients were treated with propranolol, after the diagnosis had been established by postnatal electrocardiogram (ECG). One of these patients died suddenly at the age of 3 weeks, after the treatment had been stopped because of profound bradycardia. One of the remaining two patients who did not receive propranolol had a syncope at the age of 6 weeks. Two fetuses presented with frequent runs of ventricular tachycardia and intermittent bradycardia caused by intermittent, functional second degree atrioventricular block. Both patients died on the first day of life despite treatment with propranolol and transvenous temporary pacing. CONCLUSIONS: Sinus bradycardia in an otherwise normal fetus may be a symptom of long QT syndrome. Postnatal ECGs and a family examination are strongly recommended in these children. In fetuses with frequent runs of ventricular tachycardia and intermittent second degree atrioventricular block long QT syndrome should be suspected prenatally. These high risk patients should be delivered in centres with a paediatric cardiology unit.
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