The Particulars: Screening mothers during their first trimester enables clinicians to detect if fetuses are at risk for major congenital heart disease (CHD) early. The value and applicability of fetal echocardiography (FE) to detect prenatal CHD during early gestation is unknown.

Data Breakdown: A study was conducted in which  254 early FEs were performed in high-risk pregnancies. The appropriate quality of images sufficient for detailed evaluation of the fetal heart was achieved in 247 of these cases. Minor cardiac anomalies diagnosed late in pregnancy or during the first year of life were not detected by early FE in six cases. In five cases, cardiac anomalies suspected on early FE were ruled out by postnatal ultrasound. Early FE had an overall accuracy of 95.5% in CHD detection.

Take Home Pearl: Early FE appears to reliably diagnose major CHD during the prenatal period in high-risk pregnant women.