First-Degree Heart Block in the Fetus of an Anti-SSA/Ro–Positive Mother: Reversal After a Short Course of Dexamethasone Treatment

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Isolated congenital heart block is almost invariably associated with the presence of antibodies to SSA/Ro and SSB/La antigens in the maternal circulation. Once established, third-degree congenital heart block is permanent. However, a lesser degree of autoantibody-associated heart block in a fetus can be reversed if it is recognized and treated early enough with fluorinated glucocorticosteroids. The only method available clinically for the recognition of first-degree heart block in a fetus is measurement of the mechanical PR interval by pulsed Doppler echocardiography. This is the first report of a fetus in whom a diagnosis of first-degree heart block and the consequent decision to intervene were based solely on this technique. In addition, the first-degree heart block resolved completely after only 2 weeks of dexamethasone treatment, and the heart rhythm remained stable throughout the remainder of the pregnancy despite early discontinuation of therapy due to oligohydramnios.

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