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Fetal dextrocardia: diagnosis and outcome in two tertiary centres


Objective: To evaluate the incidence of fetal dextrocardia, associated cardiac and extracardiac malformations, and outcome.

Design: Retrospective echocardiographic study.

Setting: Two tertiary centres for fetal cardiology.

Patients: 81 consecutive fetuses with a fetal dextrocardia presenting at Guy’s Hospital, London, between 1983 and 2003 and at Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, between 1988 and 2003. Fetal dextrocardia was defined as a condition in which the major axis of the heart points to the right.

Results: The incidence was 0.22%. There were 38 fetuses (47%) with situs solitus (SS), 24 (30%) with situs ambiguus (SA), and 19 (23%) with situs inversus (SI). Structural cardiac malformations were found in 25 cases (66%) of SS, 23 cases (96%) of SA, and 12 cases (63%) of SI. Extracardiac malformations were identified in 12 cases (31%) of SS, in five cases (21%) of SA, and in two cases (10%) of SI. Of the 81 cases of fetal dextrocardia, there were 27 interrupted pregnancies (15 of 24 SA, 10 of 38 SS, and 2 of 19 SI), six intrauterine deaths (3 of 38 SS, 2 of 24 SA, and 1 of 19 SI), and five neonatal deaths (3 of 24 SA, 1 of 19 SI, and 1 of 38 SS). There were 43 survivors (24 of 38 SS, 15 of 19 SI, and 4 of 24 SA).

Conclusion: The majority of fetuses with dextrocardia referred for fetal echocardiography have associated congenital heart disease. There is a broad spectrum of cardiac malformation and the incidence varies according to the atrial situs. Fetal echocardiography enables detection of complex congenital heart disease so that parents can be appropriately counselled.

  • SA, situs ambiguus
  • SI, situs inversus
  • SS, situs solitus
  • VATER, vertebral, anal, tracheal, esophageal, and radial anomalies
  • fetal dextrocardia
  • fetal heart
  • cardiac malformations
  • extracardiac malformations
  • outcome

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