• fetal heart rate;
  • nuchal translucency;
  • chromosomal defects;
  • first trimester screening;
  • ultrasound screening



To determine the effects of chromosomal defects on fetal heart rate at 10–14 weeks of gestation.


Fetal heart rate at 10–14 weeks of gestation in 1061 chromosomally abnormal fetuses was compared to that from 25 000 normal pregnancies. The chromosomally abnormal group included 554 cases of trisomy 21, 219 cases of trisomy 18, 95 of trisomy 13, 50 of triploidy, 115 of Turner syndrome and 28 of sex chromosome abnormalities other than Turner syndrome.


In the normal group, fetal heart rate decreased from a mean value of 170 beats per minute (bpm) at 35 mm of crown–rump length to 155 bpm at 84 mm crown–rump length. In trisomy 21, trisomy 13 and Turner syndrome fetal heart rate was significantly higher, in trisomy 18 and triploidy the heart rate was lower and in other sex chromosome defects it was not significantly different from normal. Fetal heart rate was above the 95th centile of the normal range in 10%, 67% and 52% of fetuses with trisomy 21, trisomy 13 and Turner syndrome, respectively. The fetal heart rate was below the 5th centile in 30% of fetuses with triploidy and 19% of those with trisomy 18.


Trisomy 21, trisomy 13 and Turner syndrome are associated with fetal tachycardia, whereas in trisomy 18 and triploidy there is fetal bradycardia. Inclusion of fetal heart rate in a first-trimester screening program for trisomy 21 by a combination of maternal age and fetal nuchal translucency thickness is unlikely to provide useful improvement in sensitivity. Copyright © 2000 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology