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Management of fetal tachyarrhythmia based on superior vena cava/aorta Doppler flow recordings
  1. J-C Fouron1,
  2. A Fournier2,
  3. F Proulx1,
  4. J Lamarche2,
  5. J L Bigras1,
  6. C Boutin1,
  7. M Brassard1,
  8. S Gamache1
  1. 1Fetal Cardiology Unit, Department of Pediatrics, Sainte-Justine Hospital, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2Cardiology Division, Department of Pediatrics, Sainte-Justine Hospital
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J-C Fouron, Cardiology Division, Sainte-Justine Hospital, 3175, Côte Ste-Catherine, Montreal, Quebec H3T 1C5, Canada;


Objective: To evaluate a management protocol of fetal supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) based on prior identification of the underlying mechanism.

Design and setting: Prospective study in a mother–child tertiary university centre.

Patients: During a consecutive 36 month period, 18 fetuses with sustained SVT underwent a superior vena cava/ascending aorta (SVC/AA) Doppler investigation in an attempt to determine the atrioventricular (AV) relation and to treat the arrhythmia according to a pre-established management protocol.

Main outcome measure: Rate of conversion to sinus rhythm.

Results: Seven fetuses had short ventriculoatrial tachycardia, five of these with a 1:1 AV conduction suggesting re-entrant tachycardia. The first choice drug was digoxin and all were converted. One fetus had AV dissociation leading to the diagnosis of junctional ectopic tachycardia, which was resistant to digoxin and sotalol; amiodarone achieved postnatal conversion. One fetus had SVT and first or second AV block; the diagnosis was atrial ectopic tachycardia (AET), which responded to sotalol given as a drug of first choice. Seven fetuses had long ventriculoatrial tachycardia: one with sinus tachycardia (no treatment), one with permanent junctional reciprocating tachycardia (PJRT), and three with AET. The first choice drug was sotalol and all were converted. One AET was classified postnatally as PJRT. Six fetuses had intra-atrial re-entrant tachycardia: five with 2:1 AV conduction and one with variable block. The first choice drug was digoxin. Conversion was achieved in all but one, who died after birth from advanced cardiomyopathy.

Conclusion: The electrophysiological mechanisms of fetal SVT can be clarified with SVC/AA Doppler. The proposed management protocol has so far yielded a good rate of conversion to sinus rhythm.

  • fetal tachycardia
  • VA intervals
  • digoxin
  • sotalol
  • arrhythmia
  • AA, ascending aorta
  • AET, atrial ectopic tachycardia
  • AV, atrioventricular
  • PJRT, permanent junctional reciprocating tachycardia
  • SVC, superior vena cava
  • SVT, supraventricular tachycardia
  • VA, ventriculoatrial

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