Ultrasound scans in the mid trimester of pregnancy are now a routine part of antenatal care in most European countries. With the assistance of Registries of Congenital Anomalies a study was undertaken in Europe. The objective of the study was to evaluate prenatal detection of congenital heart defects (CHD) by routine ultrasonographic examination of the fetus. All congenital malformations suspected prenatally and all congenital malformations, including chromosome anomalies, confirmed at birth were identified from the Congenital Malformation Registers, including 20 registers from the following European countries: Austria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK and Ukrainia. These registries follow the same methodology. The study period was 1996-1998, 709 030 births were covered, and 8126 cases with congenital malformations were registered. If more than one cardiac malformation was present the case was coded as complex cardiac malformation. CHD were subdivided into 'isolated' when only a cardiac malformation was present and 'associated' when at least one other major extra cardiac malformation was present. The associated CHD were subdivided into chromosomal, syndromic non-chromosomal and multiple. The study comprised 761 associated CHD including 282 cases with multiple malformations, 375 cases with chromosomal anomalies and 104 cases with non-chromosomal syndromes. The proportion of prenatal diagnosis of associated CHD varied in relation to the ultrasound screening policies from 17.9% in countries without routine screening (The Netherlands and Denmark) to 46.0% in countries with only one routine fetal scan and 55.6% in countries with two or three routine fetal scans. The prenatal detection rate of chromosomal anomalies was 40.3% (151/375 cases). This rate for recognized syndromes and multiply malformed with CHD was 51.9% (54/104 cases) and 48.6% (137/282 cases), respectively; 150/229 Down syndrome (65.8%) were livebirths. Concerning the syndromic cases, the detection rate of deletion 22q11, situs anomalies and VATER association was 44.4%, 64.7% and 46.6%, respectively. In conclusion, the present study shows large regional variations in the prenatal detection rate of CHD with the highest rates in European regions with three screening scans. Prenatal diagnosis of CHD is significantly higher if associated malformations are present. Cardiac defects affecting the size of the ventricles have the highest detection rate. Mean gestational age at discovery was 20-24 weeks for the majority of associated cardiac defects.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.