Quantitative assessment of growth and function of the cardiac chambers in the normal human fetus: a prospective longitudinal echocardiographic study.
We assessed the changes in cardiac chamber size, architecture and function in the normal fetus in a prospective, longitudinal, two-dimensional, and two-dimensionally directed M mode echocardiographic study. Serial echocardiograms were recorded in 16 normal fetuses at 4 week intervals from 20 weeks gestation to parturition. Fetal gestational age was assessed by biparietal diameter. Left ventricular, right ventricular, and left atrial chamber sizes and aortic diameter all increased linearly with age. The ratios of right and left ventricular diameter, left atrial to aortic diameters, and relative left ventricular wall thickness that we used as an index of short-axis left ventricular architecture remained constant. Fractional right ventricular and left ventricular wall thicknesses were similar both on echocardiograms and in postmortem hearts over the same range of gestational ages. In addition, postmortem right ventricular and left ventricular free wall weights were indistinguishable and contributed the same proportion to total heart weight throughout gestation. Left ventricular echocardiographic mass increased linearly from a mean of 0.86 +/- 0.09 to 7.47 +/- 2.43 g at term and corresponded closely with postmortem left ventricular weight. We conclude that (1) fetal cardiac chamber dimensions, wall thicknesses, and left ventricular mass increased with gestational age, (2) cardiac architecture in terms of the ratios of right ventricular/left ventricular diameters, left atrial/aortic diameters, and relative wall thickness remained constant, (3) right and left ventricular fractional shortening did not change with age, (4) left ventricular mass assessed echocardiographically corresponded closely with postmortem left ventricular weights in fetal hearts of similar gestational ages, and (5) the similarities between right and left ventricular sizes, wall thicknesses, and free wall weights in this study do not support the theory of right ventricular dominance in the human fetus.
- Copyright © 1984 by American Heart Association