Risk of congenital complete heart block in newborns of mothers with anti-Ro/SSA antibodies detected by counterimmunoelectrophoresis: a prospective study of 100 women

Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Aug;44(8):1832-5. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200108)44:8<1832::AID-ART320>3.0.CO;2-C.


Objective: To assess the true prevalence of congenital complete heart block (CCHB) in infants of anti-Ro/SSA-positive women known to have connective tissue disease (CTD) and, secondarily, to evaluate the prevalence of other electrocardiographic abnormalities in these newborns at birth.

Methods: A prospective study was conducted in 4 referral hospitals. One hundred anti-Ro/SSAA-positive mothers were followed up before they became pregnant and during the index pregnancy. Counterimmunoelectrophoresis and immunoblotting were used to test for antibodies to extractable nuclear antigens.

Results: Of the 100 women with anti-Ro/SSA antibodies, 2 had infants who developed CCHB in utero (2%). The CCHB was detected at 22 weeks and 20 weeks, respectively. One of the 2 mothers had primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS), and the other had undifferentiated CTD (UCTD). No case of CCHB occurred among the infants of 53 mothers with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). No fetal death occurred due to CCHB. In 2 centers, electrocardiography was recorded in 24 unselected newborns, and 4 were found to have sinus bradycardia.

Conclusion: The prevalence of CCHB in newborns of prospectively followed up women already known to be anti-Ro/SSA positive and with known CTD was 2%. This finding is useful with regard to preconception counseling of these women. The risk of delivering an infant with CCHB may be higher in mothers with primary SS or UCTD than in those with SLE. Additional electrocardiographic abnormalities such as sinus bradycardia and prolongation of the QT interval may be present in their children.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Bradycardia / diagnosis
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / immunology*
  • Counterimmunoelectrophoresis / methods*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Block / congenital*
  • Heart Block / diagnosis
  • Heart Block / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Small Cytoplasmic*
  • Ribonucleoproteins / immunology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Autoantigens
  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Small Cytoplasmic
  • RO60 protein, human
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • SS-A antigen