Circulatory effects of acute bradycardia in the human fetus as studied by Doppler ultrasound

U. Gembruch, A. A. Baschat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To report on flow changes in fetal arterial, venous and coronary vessels during bradycardia following cordocentesis. Changes in the fetal circulation in response to acute challenges are incompletely understood. Methods: Fetal blood sampling was performed at 29 + 4 weeks for chromosome analysis in a fetus with multiple malformations including a complete atrioventricular septal defect with competent atrioventricular valve. The procedure was complicated by a 12-min bradycardia of 57 beats/min. 'Heart sparing' (sudden visualization of coronary blood flow) and 'brain sparing' (increased diastolic velocities in the middle cerebral artery) were demonstrated by Doppler examination despite marked circulatory compromise (regurgitation of atrioventricuIar valve, increased reverse flow in precordial veins and pulsatile umbilical vein flow pattern) which persisted after normalization of the fetal heart rate. The findings had resolved completely at a full cardiovascular examination 6 h after the bradycardia. Pregnancy termination was subsequently performed for partial monosomy 13q. Conclusion: Protective fetal changes producing 'heart sparing' and 'brain sparing' and may be operational during episodes of acute fetal bradycardia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-427
Number of pages4
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bradycardia
  • Coronary blood flow
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Fetal blood sampling
  • Fetal heart
  • Fetus
  • Hypoxia
  • Umbilical cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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