Objectives: To evaluate prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart diseases by ultrasound investigation in well-defined European populations.
Design: Data from 20 registries of congenital malformations in 12 European countries were included. The prenatal ultrasound screening programs in the countries ranged from no routine screening to three ultrasound investigations per patient routinely performed.
Results: There were 2454 cases with congenital heart disease with an overall prenatal detection rate of 25%. Termination of pregnancy was performed in 293 cases (12%). There was considerable variation in prenatal detection rate between regions, with the lowest detection rates being in countries without ultrasound screening (11%) and in Eastern European countries (Croatia, Lithuania and Ukraine; 8%). In Western European countries with ultrasound screening, detection rate ranged from 19-48%. There was a significant difference in prenatal detection rate and proportion of induced abortions between isolated congenital heart disease and congenital heart disease associated with chromosome anomalies, multiple malformations and syndromes (P < 0.0001). There were 1694 cases with isolated congenital heart disease of which 16% were diagnosed prenatally. Malformations affecting the size of the ventricles were detected prenatally in half of the cases.
Conclusions: Prenatal detection rate of congenital heart disease varies significantly between countries even with the same screening recommendations. The presence of associated malformations significantly increases the prenatal detection rate.