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J Ultrasound Med. 2006 Feb;25(2):197-202.

Trends in fetal echocardiography and implications for clinical practice: 1985 to 2003.

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Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine whether patterns of referral for fetal echocardiography (FE) and the subsequent yield for structural congenital heart disease (CHD) have changed between 1985 and 2003.


All FE performed between 1985 and 2003 at Yale-New Haven Hospital was reviewed. The primary indication for study and the presence of structural CHD were recorded, and data were analyzed for trends. Linear regression with Pearson coefficient calculation and Mantel-Haenszel chi(2) analysis were performed (P < .05 significant).


Between 1985 and 2003, 10,806 patients had FE at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and 774 cases of structural CHD were detected. The annual number of studies and rate of detected structural CHD remained constant through the study period. There was a significant increase in the proportion of studies for diabetes, maternal structural CHD, suspicious 4-chamber heart, and family history of cardiac disease. There was a significant decrease in the proportion of studies for a previous child with structural CHD, cardiac teratogen exposure, other fetal anomalies, aneuploidy, fetal arrhythmia, and nonimmune hydrops. The percentage of structural CHD detected by indication remained constant through the study period. Subgroup analysis of diabetes revealed an increase in class B diabetes, while classes C and D remained stable.


This is one of the largest series of FE and suggests that the pattern of indications has changed since 1985. Specifically, referral for diabetes (mostly class B) has increased without a change in yield of structural CHD by indication for sonography. The changing referral patterns reflect a change in obstetric demographics and has implications for obstetric care.

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