• Fetal;
  • Echocardiography;
  • Congenital heart disease;
  • Outcome



Most pregnant women in New South Wales undergo obstetric ultrasound examination, including some assessment of fetal cardiac anatomy. We aimed to review the spectrum of cardiac defects, management and outcome data of all fetuses with diagnosis of major congenital heart disease between 1994 and 1996 and compare them to major congenital heart disease in infants born during the same 3-year study period.


Descriptive comprehensive study of the New South Wales population. Study centers included the single fetal echocardiographic referral service and the two pediatric cardiac centers of New South Wales.


Ninety-seven fetuses and 562 infants with major congenital heart disease were identified (240 000 livebirths), resulting in a prenatal detection rate of 15%. Anomalies detectable by cardiac four-chamber views were diagnosed at an average rate of 30% (68/229) in utero. By contrast, lesions associated with abnormal ventricular outflow and great artery views were detected in only 6.7% (29/430; P < 0.0001) of cases prior to birth. Of the 97 fetuses, 29 were aborted, 16 died in utero, and 9 died early postnatally without treatment. Within 2 weeks of age, 23% with fetal and 40% (P < 0.05) with infant major congenital heart disease diagnosis required an intervention, mainly for patent ductus arteriosus dependent lesions. Postnatal survival was similar for the fetal and infant series up to 2 years of age: 77% (95% confidence interval 64–90%) vs. 85% (95% confidence interval 82–88%).


Prenatal diagnosis has important implications for pregnancy outcome, in particular for univentricular lesions. However, the present mode of obstetric routine ultrasound scanning fails to identify most ductus arteriosus dependent cardiac lesions with a predictable need for early postnatal intervention. Copyright © 2001 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology