Fetal intracardiac potassium chloride injection to avoid the hopeless resuscitation of an abnormal abortus: I. Clinical issues

Obstet Gynecol. 1992 Aug;80(2):296-9.


Objective: With the intention of preventing the attendant medical, ethical, and legal problems arising from the birth of live-born, anomalous fetuses, we initiated a program offering fetal intracardiac potassium chloride injection as an adjunctive measure in the setting of genetically indicated second-trimester abortion.

Methods: A lethal fetal injection was offered to patients carrying chromosomally or structurally abnormal fetuses at 19-24 weeks' gestation who desired abortion. When the patient elected this procedure, real-time ultrasound guidance was used to inject 3-5 mL of potassium chloride (2 mEq/mL) directly into the fetal cardiac chambers, followed by observation of fetal heart activity to ascertain cessation. Labor was subsequently induced with uterotonic prostaglandins.

Results: The procedure caused immediate cessation of fetal heart motion in 20 of 21 cases. There were no maternal complications. No fetuses were live-born.

Conclusions: Direct fetal intracardiac potassium chloride injection effectively causes immediate fetal cardiac arrest. This approach may be adopted in cases of abortion by labor-induction methods at advanced gestations to ensure that the abortus is stillborn.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Eugenic* / methods
  • Congenital Abnormalities / therapy
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart*
  • Heart Arrest, Induced
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Labor, Induced
  • Potassium Chloride / administration & dosage*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Resuscitation


  • Potassium Chloride