Fetal dysrhythmias

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2019 Jul;58:28-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.01.002. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Fetal dysrhythmias are common abnormalities, usually manifesting as irregular rhythms. Although most irregularities are benign and caused by isolated atrial ectopics, in a few cases, rhythm irregularity may indicate partial atrioventricular block, which has different etiological and prognostic implications. We provide a flowchart for the initial management of irregular rhythm to help select cases requiring urgent specialist referral. Tachycardias and bradycardias are less frequent, can lead to hemodynamic compromise, and may require in utero therapy. Pharmacological treatment of tachycardia depends on the type (supraventricular tachycardia or atrial flutter) and presence of hydrops, with digoxin, flecainide, and sotalol being commonly used. An ongoing randomized trial may best inform about their efficacy. Bradycardia due to blocked bigeminy normally resolves spontaneously, but if it is due to established complete heart block, there is no effective treatment. Ongoing research suggests hydroxychloroquine may reduce the risk of autoimmune atrioventricular block. Sinus bradycardia (rate <3rd centile) may be a prenatal marker for long-QT syndrome.

Keywords: Atrial ectopic beats; Atrioventricular block; Bradycardia; Fetus; Supraventricular; Tachycardia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Diseases / therapy
  • Fetal Therapies / methods
  • Heart Block / congenital
  • Heart Block / diagnosis
  • Heart Block / therapy
  • Heart Rate, Fetal*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal

Supplementary concepts

  • Congenital heart block