Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Obstetric importance, diagnosis, and management of fetal tachycardias.

British Medical Journal 1988; 297 doi: (Published 09 July 1988) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1988;297:107
  1. D. J. Maxwell,
  2. D. C. Crawford,
  3. P. V. Curry,
  4. M. J. Tynan,
  5. L. D. Allan
  1. Department of Perinatal Cardiology, Guy's Hospital, London.


    During 1980-7, 23 pregnancies of 22-38 weeks' duration were investigated for fetal tachycardia. Twelve were cases of supraventricular tachycardia, eight of atrial flutter, and three cases in which the rhythm varied between supraventricular tachycardia and atrial flutter. In 11 cases the fetus had developed non-immune fetal hydrops before referral; 12 cases were non-hydropic at referral but one of this group of fetuses became hydropic during treatment. No relation was found between the rate or type of arrhythmia and the presence or absence of intrauterine heart failure. One non-hydropic infant was delivered electively prematurely. Maternal antiarrhythmic treatment was instituted in the remaining 22 cases. Conversion of the arrhythmia was achieved with digoxin alone in five cases and with a combination of digoxin and verapamil in nine. Control of the arrhythmia was achieved in seven of the 10 non-hydropic fetuses, and all were delivered at term with no deaths. Of the 12 hydropic fetuses, control was achieved in seven. Only three of the hydropic fetuses were delivered close to term. There were two deaths, both in the hydropic group. Of the whole group, five neonates suffered severe complications of prematurity. In this series the main benefit of treatment appeared to be in prolonging gestation of those hydropic fetuses in which conversion was achieved.