Utility of fetal cardiac magnetic resonance imaging in assessing the cardiac axis in fetuses with congenital heart disease

Pediatr Radiol. 2023 May;53(5):910-919. doi: 10.1007/s00247-022-05582-6. Epub 2023 Jan 5.

Abstract

Background: Fetal dedicated echocardiography is the standard to measure the fetal cardiac axis. However, fetal screening ultrasound (US) or fetal dedicated echocardiography may be technically limited.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the accuracy of fetal cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the cardiac axis in fetuses with congenital heart disease as an adjunct to fetal dedicated echocardiography and to assess the predictive value of fetal cardiac MRI measurements in distinguishing healthy fetuses from fetuses with congenital heart disease.

Materials and methods: This is a retrospective study of fetuses referred to our hospital for a fetal cardiac MRI from November 2019 to December 2021. Cardiac axes were measured in the 4-chamber view of the fetal heart using fetal cardiac MRI and dedicated echocardiography, or only using fetal cardiac MRI when screening US was technically limited. The fetuses were divided into a congenital heart disease group and a healthy control group. We used Bland-Altman analysis and the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) to assess the agreement of cardiac axis measurements in fetuses with congenital heart disease obtained by cardiac MRI and by fetal dedicated echocardiography. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis of the fetal cardiac axes in the congenital heart disease and healthy fetus groups assessed the predictive value of the cardiac axis measurements.

Results: This retrospective study included 431 women (162 carrying fetuses with congenital heart disease, 269 carrying healthy fetuses). Cardiac axes were measured in the 162 fetuses with congenital heart disease using fetal cardiac MRI and dedicated echocardiography. Cardiac axes were measured in the 269 healthy control fetuses using fetal cardiac MRI when fetal screening US was technically limited. The interobserver analysis and intraobserver analysis showed that the cardiac axis measured by fetal cardiac MRI and fetal dedicated echocardiography was repeatable (ICC>0.90). In 162 fetuses with congenital heart disease, Bland-Altman analysis showed a strong agreement between cardiac MRI and fetal dedicated echocardiography measurements for the cardiac axis. The ICC for the cardiac axis values between cardiac MRI and fetal dedicated echocardiography measurements was 0.99. In fetuses with congenital heart disease, 64.2% (104/162) had an abnormal cardiac axis. For the fetal cardiac axis in both the 162 fetuses with congenital heart disease and the 269 healthy fetuses, the area under the ROC curve reached 0.85 (95% confidence interval: 0.80-0.89; P<0.0001).

Conclusion: The cardiac axis can be accurately measured using fetal cardiac MRI when fetal dedicated echocardiography/fetal screening US is technically limited. The cardiac axis measurements by fetal cardiac MRI are consistent with known cardiac axis measurements by fetal dedicated echocardiography. The frequency of abnormal cardiac axis depends on the type of congenital heart disease.

Keywords: Cardiac axis; Congenital heart disease; Echocardiography; Fetus; Magnetic resonance imaging; Prenatal diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Heart / pathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods