Micro-computed tomography of isolated fetal hearts following termination of pregnancy: A feasibility study at 8 to 12 weeks' gestation

Prenat Diagn. 2020 Jul;40(8):984-990. doi: 10.1002/pd.5719. Epub 2020 May 6.


Objectives: To assess the feasibility of retrieval of intact human fetal hearts after first trimester surgical termination of pregnancy (TOP) and subsequent anatomical assessment by postmortem micro-computed tomography (micro-CT).

Methods: In a cohort of consenting women undergoing surgical TOP between 8 and 13 weeks' gestation, we attempted the retrieval of the fetal heart from the suction material. Specimens were immersion fixed in 10% formaldehyde, scanned by iodine-enhanced micro-CT and cardiac anatomy assessed by a multidisciplinary team using 3D-multiplanar analysis.

Results: The median gestational age at TOP was 10.7 weeks (range 8.3-12.9). In 57 (95.0%) out of 60 suction specimens, the heart could be retrieved. The median cardiac length was 5 mm (range 2-8 mm), in three (5.3%), the heart was too damaged to assess cardiac anatomy and in five (8.7%) only the four chambers could be examined. In the remaining 49 (86.0%) cases, a detailed assessment of cardiac anatomy was possible, showing a major defect in two (4.1%) and a minor defect in four (8.2%).

Conclusions: Fetal hearts can be retrieved after first trimester TOP being intact in the vast majority of cases. Iodine-enhanced, postmortem micro-CT can be used to assess cardiac anatomy from as early as 8 weeks and to describe heart abnormalities.