Embryonic heart rates: development in early first trimester and clinical evaluation

N Tezuka, S Sato, H Kanasugi, M Hiroi
Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation 1991, 32 (4): 210-2
One hundred and forty-three women in the early first trimester of gestation were examined 364 times using transvaginal sonography, and the development of embryonic heart rate was studied. In each case gestational age was revised retrospectively by either recorded basal body temperature or ultrasound crown-rump length dating between 9 and 10 weeks. Embryonic cardiac activity could be detected as early as 37 days of gestation. In 133 continuing pregnancies, embryonic heart rate rose from an average of 97.7 beats per min at 36-38 days to 174.7 beats per min at 60-62 days. A significant correlation was seen between gestational age and embryonic heart rate (p less than 0.001). The regression equation for heart rate was as follows: heart rate = 3.850 x gestational age (days) -54.64 (r = 0.908, n = 347), in short, embryonic heart rate continued to rise about 4 beats per min every day until 8 weeks of gestation. In this series, 10 pregnancies resulted in spontaneous abortion in the first trimester, and all of them showed relative bradycardia. Embryonic heart rate measurements in 8 of them were below the 95% prediction intervals for normal heart rate plotted against gestational age. This study suggests that embryonic heart rate measurement by ultrasound may be a new method for dating early first trimester, and that first trimester bradycardia may be associated with a poor prognosis for the pregnancy.

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