JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY
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Critical congenital heart disease: contemporary prenatal screening performance and outcomes in a multi-centre perinatology service.

BACKGROUND: Prenatal detection of critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) optimises perinatal decision-making and neonatal outcomes. The objective of this study was to determine the prenatal screening performance, care pathways and perinatal outcomes for prenatally and postnatally diagnosed cases of CCHD over a four-year period.

STUDY DESIGN: This retrospective cohort study in a tertiary centre and its two affiliated secondary sites examined all cases of CCHD, including cases of pregnancy termination and in-utero fetal death, neonatal death and liveborn babies that underwent cardiac catheterization or surgery in the first six weeks of life. Prenatal and postnatal data were ascertained from the first trimester assessment for all patients diagnosed prenatally. Cases requiring intervention that were first identified in the postnatal period were included to determine prenatal detection rates. Follow-up for all cases of CCHD continued to one year of age.

RESULTS: In a consecutive cohort of 49,950 pregnancies in a 4-year period 01/2019 to 12/2022, a prenatal diagnosis of CCHD was made in 96 cases, yielding a prevalence of 1.9 per 1000 births. The prenatal detection for right duct-dependant heart pathology and congenital heart block was 100%, 85% for left duct-dependant pathology and 93% for transposition of the great arteries (TGA). In the prenatally diagnosed group, 37% of cases were complicated by extracardiac structural abnormalities, a genetic diagnosis or both. All cases of prenatal detection were identified in the context of routine anatomy screening rather than specialist Fetal Cardiac screening services. Almost half of all pregnancies complicated by CCHD did not undergo neonatal cardiac intervention, by virtue of parental choice determined either prenatally or after birth. An additional eight babies were diagnosed with CCHD in the neonatal period, such that the prenatal detection rate for CCHD was 92% (96/104, 95% CI = 84%-96%). Survival at 1-year for infants deemed suitable for CCHD surgery was 85%.

CONCLUSION: In a large unselected population, optimal rates of prenatal detection of critical congenital heart disease can be achieved by a protocolised approach to mid-trimester fetal anatomy ultrasound, underpinned by a programme of sonographer education and training. The cardiac abnormalities most likely to evade prenatal detection are left-sided obstructive lesions.

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