Isolated echogenic foci in the fetal heart as marker of chromosomal abnormality

Authors


Abstract

Objective

To assess the effect of echogenic foci in the fetal heart on the risk for Down's syndrome.

Design

Prospective evaluation of fetal echocardiograms at a fetal cardiology referral center and systematic postnatal follow-up. A relative risk was calculated from the prevalence of echogenic foci in fetuses subsequently demonstrated to have trisomy 21 divided by that in normal fetuses. For a subgroup of 548 fetuses with echogenic foci but otherwise normal detailed anomaly scans, the expected number of trisomy 21 fetuses calculated from maternal age risks was compared with the observed number to derive a relative risk for isolated echogenic foci.

Results

Echogenic foci occurred in 905 of 6904 fetuses scanned, but after excluding those referred specifically because of an echogenic focus and those with heart defects, the incidence was 9.5%. Overall, echogenic foci were more frequent in fetuses with trisomy 21 than those without by a factor of 2.93. For the 548 fetuses with echogenic foci but otherwise normal detailed anomaly scans, the actual number of trisomy 21 fetuses exceeded that expected on the basis of maternal age risks by a factor of 5.54. Combination with data from several previous studies suggests a consensus relative risk of about 3.0.

Conclusions

Echogenic foci are associated with increased risk of trisomy 21 even when present as an isolated finding. Their significance in an individual should be interpreted in the light of prior risk assessment based on maternal age and results of any first-trimester screening tests. We suggest that the prior risk is increased by a factor of 3.0. Copyright © 2001 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology

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