Low mortality in fetal supraventricular tachycardia: Outcomes in a 30-year single-institution experience

J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2020 May;31(5):1105-1113. doi: 10.1111/jce.14406. Epub 2020 Mar 4.


Objectives: To describe a single institutional experience managing fetuses with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and to identify associations between patient characteristics and fetal and postnatal outcomes.

Background: Sustained fetal SVT is associated with significant morbidity and mortality if untreated, yet the optimal management strategy remains unclear.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study including fetuses diagnosed with sustained SVT (>50% of the diagnostic echocardiogram) between 1985 and 2018. Fetuses with congenital heart disease were excluded.

Results: Sustained SVT was diagnosed in 65 fetuses at a median gestational age of 30 weeks (range, 14-37). Atrioventricular re-entrant tachycardia and atrial flutter were the most common diagnoses, seen in 41 and 16 cases, respectively. Moderate/severe ventricular dysfunction was present in 20 fetuses, and hydrops fetalis was present in 13. Of the 57 fetuses initiated on transplacental drug therapy, 47 received digoxin first-line, yet 39 of 57 (68%) required advanced therapy with sotalol, flecainide, or amiodarone. Rate or rhythm control was achieved in 47 of 57 treated fetuses. There were no cases of intrauterine fetal demise. Later gestational age at fetal diagnosis (odds ratio [OR], 1.1, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.2, P = .02) and moderate/severe fetal ventricular dysfunction (OR, 6.1, 95% CI, 1.7-21.6, P = .005) were associated with postnatal SVT. Two postnatal deaths occurred.

Conclusions: Fetuses with structurally normal hearts and sustained SVT can be effectively managed with transplacental drug therapy with minimal risk of intrauterine fetal demise. Treatment requires multiple antiarrhythmic agents in over half of cases. Later gestational age at fetal diagnosis and the presence of depressed fetal ventricular function, but not hydrops, predict postnatal arrhythmia burden.

Keywords: atrial flutter; fetal tachycardia; supraventricular tachycardia; therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Fetal Death
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Fetal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Fetal Diseases / mortality
  • Fetal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Fetal Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Heart / drug effects*
  • Fetal Heart / physiopathology
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart Rate, Fetal / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / diagnosis
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / drug therapy*
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / mortality
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents