Fetal cardiac function between 11 and 35 weeks' gestation and nuchal translucency thickness

S. A.B. Clur, K. Oude Rengerink, B. W.J. Mol, J. Ottenkamp, C. M. Bilardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives The pathophysiological background of an increased nuchal translucency (NT) is still poorly understood. Cardiac dysfunction has been proposed as a cause. The aim of this study was to determine if, in fetuses with normal hearts, the NT thickness is related to cardiac function throughout gestation. Methods The NT was measured in 191 karyotypically/phenotypically normal fetuses with structurally normal hearts and was increased (⥠95th centile) in 104. All fetuses had been referred for fetal echocardiography and were prospectively included between October 1 2003 and April 1 2009. Three-hundred and ten echocardiograms were performed between 11 and 35 weeks' gestation. The E- and A-wave velocity, E/A velocity ratio, E/time velocity integral (TVI) ratio over the atrioventricular (AV) valves, myocardial performance index, acceleration time (AT) and peak velocity over the semilunar valves, stroke volume (SV) and cardiac output (CO) as well as the ductus venosus pulsatility index for veins at 11-14 weeks' gestation (DV-PIV), were measured. A multilevel analysis was performed using the NT multiples of the median (MoM) as a continuous variable. Results AV-E- and A-wave velocities, E/A velocity ratios, semilunar valve peak velocity, SV, CO and aortic valve (AoV) AT increased significantly with advancing gestation. At 11-14 weeks' gestation, the AoV-AT, tricuspid valve (TV)-E/A, TV-E/TVI ratios and DV-PIV increased, and the pulmonary valve (PV) AT decreased, with increasing NT-MoMs. After midgestation, the PV-AT increased and the AoV-AT, TV-E/A and TV-E/TVI ratios decreased with increasing NT-MoMs. Conclusions NT thickness is related to right ventricular diastolic function and semilunar valve AT. Our findings suggest improved first-trimester, but later reduced, right ventricular relaxation and discordant ventricular afterload in fetuses with an increased NT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Doppler
  • cardiac function
  • ductus venosus
  • fetus
  • nuchal translucency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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