Fetal Cardiac Repolarization Abnormalities

      Abnormal cardiac repolarization renders the heart susceptible to lethal ventricular tachyarrhythmias, increasing the risk of sudden cardiac death in all ages; however, little is known about the incidence and etiology of T-wave abnormalities in utero. In this study, magnetocardiography was used to better define fetal T-wave characteristics, including the QT interval in the normal fetus, and to characterize T-wave abnormalities in the fetus with arrhythmia. The QT interval and T-wave alternans were assessed from magnetocardiographic recordings obtained at 14 to 39 weeks’ gestation from 120 fetuses. Of these fetuses, 78 were from uncomplicated pregnancies and 42 had various forms of fetal arrhythmia (supraventricular tachycardia in 14, congenital atrioventricular block in 17, long QT syndrome with Torsades de pointes in 1, ventricular tachycardia in 2, sinus bradycardia in 4, and bradycardia due to blocked premature atrial contractions in 4). Although the corrected QT interval in normal sinus rhythm was accurately described by Bazett’s formula, the corrected QT interval in fetal arrhythmia exhibited a systematic deviation at heart rate extremes. The dependence of the QT interval on the RR interval in arrhythmia was approximately described by QT∝RR0.8. T-wave alternans was detected in 7 fetuses with arrhythmia, often in association with QT prolongation, suboptimal outcome, or fetal demise. The results of our study have demonstrated that QT-interval abnormalities exist and can be detected in fetal patients. The potential importance of T-wave assessment in the fetus with cardiac arrhythmia was evidenced by the high incidence of marked QT prolongation and T-wave alternans in the fetuses with suboptimal outcomes.
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