The continuing enigma of the fetal echogenic intracardiac focus in prenatal ultrasound

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The present article aims to review recent literature about intracardiac echogenic foci (ICEFs), with special emphasis in potential causes, relationships with aneuploidy and cardiac function.

Recent findings

The presence of an ICEF may be considered as a soft marker that may be of interest only in high-risk populations for chromosomal abnormalities. In cases of isolated ICEF in euploid fetuses there is not evidence of an altered cardiac function and a detailed echocardiogram is not recommended as long as the second trimester scan is normal. Cases of fetal myocardial diffuse or multiple calcifications may be related to inflammatory and hypoxic changes in fetal heart, but the relationships between these conditions and isolated ICEF remain unclear.

Summary

The origin of ICEF remains unclear. It is considered a normal developmental variant, but either inflammatory or hypoxic processes could be involved in its appearance. In low-risk populations for aneuploidy, the presence of an ICEF is not an indication for invasive procedures. In high-risk populations this depends on the previous calculated risk. In euploid fetuses, cardiac function is not significantly altered but further studies in specific populations may be justified. Fetuses with diffuse myocardial calcification or multiple foci may need further investigations.

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