Objectives: This study assessed the potential impact of fetal ultrasound screening on the number of newborns affected by cardiac anomalies.
Methods: A decision model was developed that included the prevalence and history of congenital heart disease, characteristics of ultrasound, risk of abortion, and attitude toward pregnancy termination. Probabilities were obtained with a literature survey; sensitivity analysis showed their influence on expected outcomes.
Results: Presently, screening programs may prevent the birth of approximately 1300 severely affected newborns per million second-trimester pregnancies. However, over 2000 terminations of pregnancy would be required, 750 of which would have ended in intrauterine death or spontaneous abortion. Further, 9900 false-positive screening results would occur, requiring referral. Only the sensitivity of routine screening and attitude toward termination of pregnancy appeared to influence the yield substantially.
Conclusions: The impact of routine screening for congenital heart disease appeared relatively small. Further data may be required to fully assess the utility of prenatal screening.