Prospective evaluation of the antenatal incidence and postnatal significance of the fetal echogenic cardiac focus: A case-control study☆☆☆★
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AbstractOBJECTIVE: We evaluated the antenatal incidence and postnatal significance of echogenic cardiac foci observed during antenatal ultrasonography. STUDY DESIGN: During a 4-month period, all women undergoing dating ultrasonography between 16.0 and 24.9 weeks' gestation at one referral center were prospectively evaluated for an echogenic cardiac focus during an apical four-chamber view of the heart. Referrals for maternal or fetal complications were excluded. Postnatal echocardiography was performed for those identified with positive findings. Controls were selected from among normal subjects in the general group for comparison with the study group. RESULTS: Five hundred six consecutive fetuses were evaluated at a mean ± SD gestational age of 20.6 ± 1.6 weeks. There were 25 (4.9%) fetuses found to have echogenic cardiac focus (left ventricle = 19, right ventricle = 6). Echocardiography was performed between 0.3 and 20.1 weeks postdelivery. After birth, 12 echogenic left ventricle papillary muscles and three echogenic left ventricle chordae were identified; there were no postnatal right ventricle findings. There were no cases of intracardiac tumor or myocardial dysfunction; one neonate had minor structural malformations. There were no significant differences in maternal age, gravidity, parity, gestational age at ultrasonography, gestational age at delivery, or 5-minute Apgar scores. A significant difference was observed in birth weight between the control (n = 50) and study (n = 25) groups (3465 ± 501 gm vs 3124 ± 589 gm; p = 0.002). This difference persisted after correcting for gestational age, although all infants in both groups born after 37.0 weeks weighed >2500 gm. CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of echogenic cardiac foci during routine midtrimester ultrasonography is 4.9%. As an isolated finding, the echogenic cardiac focus may be associated with a statistically significant but clinically insignificant decrease in birth weight. Because of these findings, we consider an isolated echogenic cardiac focus in a patient at low risk for cardiac abnormalities a variant of normal, which does not warrant follow-up clinical evaluation. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1996;175:1008-12.)

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