Objective: This study was undertaken to evaluate the feasibility and to report the detection rate of cardiac anomalies with fetal echocardiography before 16 weeks' gestation.
Study design: This is a retrospective and prospective study of 160 early fetal echocardiograms. The mean gestational age was 13.5 weeks' gestation (range 11-15+6). All women had a repeat echocardiogram at 18 weeks' gestation and pregnancy outcome was obtained.
Results: In all cases, a cardiac 4-chamber view was obtained. The atrioventricular valves were accurately seen in 154 (96%) cases; the ascending aorta and main pulmonary artery were visualized in 152 cases (95%). Overall, a satisfactory cardiac examination was feasible in 152 of cases (95%). There were 20 cardiac defects in this cohort (12.5%), 14 showed abnormalities at the time of the early ultrasound, whereas 6 were reported as normal. The sensitivity of early fetal echocardiography in this high-risk population was 70%, specificity 98%, positive predictive value 87.5%, and negative predictive value 96%.
Conclusion: The fetal heart can be examined early in pregnancy and a significant proportion of major cardiac defects identified.