Fetal Cardiac Arrhythmias

What is fetal cardiac arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is an irregular rhythm of the heart in which abnormal electrical signals through the heart muscle may cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia), or in an erratic pattern. Some cases of fetal arrhythmia are benign, but others can lead to fetal heart failure and/or pose a risk both to the fetus and to the expectant mother and will need treatment. Our Fetal Cardiology and Pediatric Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia care teams work with the Fetal and Pregnancy Health team to develop a treatment plan that is beneficial for both mother and fetus.

What is the recommended treatment for cardiac arrhythmia?

The treatment depends on the kind of arrhythmia in the fetus and its severity. In milder cases, close and frequent monitoring is sufficient. For other kinds of fetal arrhythmia, oral medication is given to the mother to treat the fetus.

In rare cases, if the fetus is found to have an arrhythmia in association with complex congenital heart disease or hydrops, we may recommend early delivery and immediate intervention. This intervention may involve giving drugs directly to the baby after birth or, in specific cases, performing surgery to place a pacemaker immediately after birth.