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Am J Cardiol. 1986 Aug 1;58(3):334-7.

Familial recurrence of congenital heart disease in a prospective series of mothers referred for fetal echocardiography.


Fetal echocardiography can ascertain, at an early stage in pregnancy, recurrences of congenital heart disease (CHD) in mothers with a family history of CHD. In 1,021 mothers referred for this reason, 20 recurrences were found; 17 occurred when there had been 1 previously affected child, and 3 when there had been 2 previously affected children. No recurrences were found in the 41 cases in which a parent had CHD. The overall recurrence rate was 1 in 52 with a previously affected child and 1 in 10 with 2 previously affected children. However, certain forms of CHD recurred much more frequently than others. Aortic valve atresia was associated with a recurrence rate of 1 in 28, coarctation of the aorta at a rate of 1 in 15, complex CHD at a rate of 1 in 11 and truncus arteriosus at 1 in 13. These findings are inconsistent with previous family studies; this may be due to more complete ascertainment, particularly of major lesions, possibly overlooked by postnatal family studies because of fetal loss. Alternatively, the availability of prenatal diagnosis may be producing an increase in family size after major CHD. The results support current doubts on the polygenic theory of inheritance for all forms of CHD.

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