Non-invasive fetal electrocardiography (ECG) is a promising method for evaluating fetal cardiac electrical activity. Despite advances in fetal ECG technology, its ability to provide reliable, interpretable results in a typical outpatient fetal cardiology setting remains unclear. We sought to determine the feasibility of measuring standard ECG intervals in an outpatient fetal cardiology practice using an abdominal fetal ECG device that employs blind source separation with reference, an innovative signal-processing technique for fetal ECG extraction. Women scheduled for clinically indicated outpatient fetal echocardiogram underwent 10 min of fetal ECG acquisition from the maternal abdomen using specialized gel electrodes. A bedside laptop computer performed fetal ECG extraction, allowing real-time visualization of fetal and maternal ECG signals. Offline post-processing of 1 min of recorded data yielded fetal P-wave duration, PR interval, QRS duration, RR interval, QT interval, and QTc. Fifty-five fetuses were studied with gestational age 18–37 weeks, including 13 with abnormal fetal echocardiogram findings and three sets of twins. Interpretable results were obtained in 91% of fetuses, including 85% during the vernix period and 100% of twin fetuses. PR interval and RR interval of 18–24 week gestation fetuses were significantly shorter than those with gestational age 25–31 and 32–37 weeks. Of the six fetuses with abnormal rhythms on fetal echocardiogram, fetal ECG tracing was interpretable in five and matched the rhythm noted on fetal echocardiogram. Abdominal fetal ECG acquisition is feasible for arrhythmia detection and ECG interval calculation in a routine clinical setting.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine