Fetal Electrophysiologic Abnormalities in High-Risk Pregnancies Associated With Fetal Demise

2018-12-20 04:52:16 | BioPortfolio


Each year world-wide, 2.5 million fetuses die unexpectedly in the last half of pregnancy, 25,000 in the United States, making fetal demise ten-times more common than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This study will apply a novel type of non-invasive monitoring, called fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG) used thus far to successfully evaluate fetal arrhythmias, in order to discover potential hidden electrophysiologic abnormalities that could lead to fetal demise in five high-risk pregnancy conditions associated with fetal demise.


Fetal demise occurs in over 25,000 pregnancies annually in the US and over 2.5 million in pregnancies worldwide. Certain maternal-fetal-placental abnormalities can have a high risk of fetal demise. Despite advances in fetal surveillance with ultrasound and cardiotocography, the reduction in fetal mortality lags behind that of the neonate and has shown little decline in the past decade. This suggests that the type of fetal monitoring used may not be assessing the correct indicators of mortality. In all other age groups, electrocardiographic (ECG) and continuous heart rate (HR) monitoring are used in every intensive care unit or emergency setting; however, for the fetus, the ECG signal is nearly completely insulated and inaccessible. As the result, indirect assessment of cardiac rhythm is obtained using echocardiography/Doppler, but echo/Doppler does not have the precision to assess beat-to-beat HR variability and cannot assess cardiac repolarization at all. In this study, the investigators will evaluate five high risk conditions (major congenital heart disease in the fetus, fetal hydrops (immune and non-immune), monochorionic twin pregnancy, prior pregnancy ending in fetal demise, and gastroschisis) using Fetal Magnetocardiography (fMCG)which detects the natural magnetic signals accompanying the cardiac electrical signal. It is a new, safe, and non-invasive recording technique that has been performed for several decades, and has recently gained FDA approval for recording cardiac signals at all ages, including in the fetus. Normative data has been obtained at the University of Wisconsin - Madison Biomagnetism Laboratory in 257 healthy fetuses by co-investigator Ronald T. Wakai, PhD. Over 550 serious fetal arrhythmias have been evaluated to date. Fetal MCG has proven invaluable in fetal Long QT Syndrome in identifying markers for risk of sudden death such as Torsades de Pointes Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), T wave alternans, 2nd degree AV block, and QTc>590 ms. To date, fMCG has not been systematically applied to diseases that are not associated with recognizable arrhythmias because the impact of silent conduction and repolarization defects has been underappreciated. In this grant, the investigators hypothesize that beat-to-beat fetal heart rate variability abnormalities and electrophysiologic abnormalities, are present in five high risk maternal-fetal-placental conditions associated with fetal demise. The study will determine which electrophysiologic abnormalities precede fetal demise or adverse pregnancy outcome. Preliminary findings in healthy normal subjects in RO1HL063174 (Wakai) show repolarization abnormalities in up to 5%, and some of these are modifiable once recognized. Two hundred pregnant subjects will be studied over a 5 year period both at referral (~20-27 weeks GA) and later in pregnancy at 30-37 weeks GA. fMCG results will be compared to neonatal ECG (nECG) obtained at 0-2 weeks of life. This will determine whether specific abnormal heart rate, rhythm and conduction patterns emerge that characterize the condition, which will then allow the high risk obstetrician to better predict risk of fetal demise in the future.

Study Design


High Risk Pregnancy


Fetal Magnetocardiogram and Neonatal Electrocardiogram


University of Wisconsin - Madison
United States




Medical College of Wisconsin

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2018-12-20T04:52:16-0500

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