Assessment of atrioventricular conduction by echocardiography and magnetocardiography in normal and anti-Ro/SSA-antibody-positive pregnancies

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Nov;54(5):625-633. doi: 10.1002/uog.20245.


Objectives: The objectives of this study were, first, to evaluate the association between fetal echocardiographic atrioventricular (AV) and magnetocardiographic (fMCG) PR intervals at different gestational ages (GAs) in normal and anti-Ro/SSA-antibody-positive pregnancies; second, to determine if PR interval could be predicted by AV interval; and third, to assess the neonatal outcome of fetuses with prolonged AV and PR intervals, with the goal of developing criteria for fetal first-degree AV block (AVB-I).

Methods: This was a retrospective study of anti-Ro/SSA-antibody-positive pregnancies (cases) and controls that underwent fMCG and fetal echocardiography at the same recording session. Cardiac cycle length, GA and AV (by mitral inflow/aortic outflow Doppler) and PR (by fMCG) intervals were measured. We tested for significant differences between AV and PR intervals using generalized estimating equations to account for repeat measurements, and assessed whether PR interval could be predicted reliably by AV interval. After delivery, infants with fetal AV or PR interval Z-score ≥ 3 underwent 12-lead electrocardiography.

Results: Thirty-nine controls and 31 cases underwent 46 and 36 simultaneous fMCG and echocardiographic examinations, respectively; 101 controls and nine cases underwent fMCG only. AV and PR intervals increased with GA (P < 0.05 for both). Overall, AV and PR intervals were significantly different from each other (P < 0.001); this difference was not significant when compared between cases and controls (P = 0.222). PR interval could not be predicted accurately from AV interval and GA alone. Three of four cases with AV and PR interval Z-scores > + 3 had postnatal AVB-I despite treatment. The fourth fetus, which had predominately second-degree AVB and rare periods of AVB-I, progressed to third-degree AVB despite treatment with dexamethasone.

Conclusions: The diagnostic threshold for AVB-I, defined by AV interval Z-score, is GA dependent. Based on the observed data, an AV interval Z-score threshold of 3 (AV interval, 151-167 ms) may be appropriate. Echocardiographic AV interval was not predictive of fMCG-PR interval. Copyright © 2019 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords: AV block; Sjögren's syndrome; fetal magnetocardiography; fetus.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood*
  • Atrioventricular Block / diagnosis
  • Atrioventricular Block / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Female
  • Fetal Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetocardiography / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Pulsed


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • SS-A antibodies