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Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2015 May;11(5):301-12. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2015.29. Epub 2015 Mar 24.

The clinical spectrum of autoimmune congenital heart block.

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Josep Font Laboratory of Autoimmune Diseases, Department of Autoimmune Diseases, Hospital Clínic, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), University of Barcelona, Calle Villarroel 170, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.
Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.
Graham Hughes Lupus Research Laboratory, Division of Women's Health, King's College London, The Rayne Institute, Lambeth Wing, 4th Floor, St Thomas' Hospital, London SE1 7EH, UK.


Autoimmune congenital heart block (CHB) is an immune-mediated acquired disease that is associated with the placental transference of maternal antibodies specific for Ro and La autoantigens. The disease develops in a fetal heart without anatomical abnormalities that could otherwise explain the block, and which is usually diagnosed in utero, but also at birth or within the neonatal period. Autoantibody-mediated damage of fetal conduction tissues causes inflammation and fibrosis and leads to blockage of signal conduction at the atrioventricular (AV) node. Irreversible complete AV block is the principal cardiac manifestation of CHB, although some babies might develop other severe cardiac complications, such as endocardial fibroelastosis or valvular insufficiency, even in the absence of cardiac block. In this Review, we discuss the epidemiology, classification and management of women whose pregnancies are affected by autoimmune CHB, with a particular focus on the autoantibodies associated with autoimmune CHB and how we should test for these antibodies and diagnose this disease. Without confirmed effective preventive or therapeutic strategies and further research on the aetiopathogenic mechanisms, autoimmune CHB will remain a severe life-threatening disorder.

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