The cardiothoracic ratio was measured in 410 normal fetuses and in a group of 73 fetuses with functional or structural heart disease. In normal fetuses it was fairly constant throughout pregnancy, but of those with congenital heart disease it was raised in cases of Ebstein's anomaly, tricuspid dysplasia, atrioventricular septal defect, and complete heart block. In some forms of congenital heart disease, however, it was within the normal range. There was a significant positive correlation between the cardiothoracic ratio and fetal hydrops in the group of 15 fetuses with supraventricular tachycardias. In these fetuses the cardiac size decreased significantly once the fetus reverted to sinus rhythm after the mother had been treated. Measurement of the cardiothoracic ratio is essential in the evaluation of fetal hydrops, as an increased value may point to the diagnosis of an intermittent fetal tachycardia if the fetus is assessed during a period of sinus rhythm. The measurement of this index forms a part of the complete prenatal evaluation of structural heart disease. The degree of cardiomegaly may provide useful information about secondary lung compression or cardiac failure and therefore assist in giving an accurate prognosis for postnatal survival.
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