Comparison of transplacental treatment of fetal supraventricular tachyarrhythmias with digoxin, flecainide, and sotalol: results of a nonrandomized multicenter study

Circulation. 2011 Oct 18;124(16):1747-54. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.026120. Epub 2011 Sep 19.


Background: Fetal tachyarrhythmia may result in low cardiac output and death. Consequently, antiarrhythmic treatment is offered in most affected pregnancies. We compared 3 drugs commonly used to control supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and atrial flutter (AF).

Methods and results: We reviewed 159 consecutive referrals with fetal SVT (n=114) and AF (n=45). Of these, 75 fetuses with SVT and 36 with AF were treated nonrandomly with transplacental flecainide (n=35), sotalol (n=52), or digoxin (n=24) as a first-line agent. Prenatal treatment failure was associated with an incessant versus intermittent arrhythmia pattern (n=85; hazard ratio [HR]=3.1; P<0.001) and, for SVT, with fetal hydrops (n=28; HR=1.8; P=0.04). Atrial flutter had a lower rate of conversion to sinus rhythm before delivery than SVT (HR=2.0; P=0.005). Cardioversion at 5 and 10 days occurred in 50% and 63% of treated SVT cases, respectively, but in only 25% and 41% of treated AF cases. Sotalol was associated with higher rates of prenatal AF termination than digoxin (HR=5.4; P=0.05) or flecainide (HR=7.4; P=0.03). If incessant AF/SVT persisted to day 5 (n=45), median ventricular rates declined more with flecainide (-22%) and digoxin (-13%) than with sotalol (-5%; P<0.001). Flecainide (HR=2.1; P=0.02) and digoxin (HR=2.9; P=0.01) were also associated with a higher rate of conversion of fetal SVT to a normal rhythm over time. No serious drug-related adverse events were observed, but arrhythmia-related mortality was 5%.

Conclusion: Flecainide and digoxin were superior to sotalol in converting SVT to a normal rhythm and in slowing both AF and SVT to better-tolerated ventricular rates and therefore might be considered first to treat significant fetal tachyarrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Digoxin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Fetal Therapies / methods*
  • Flecainide / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sotalol / therapeutic use
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Digoxin
  • Sotalol
  • Flecainide