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Risk Stratification of Fetal Cardiac Anomalies in an Underserved Population Using Telecardiology.

  • Cuneo, Bettina F1
  • Olson, Christina A
  • Haxel, Caitlin
  • Howley, Lisa
  • Gagnon, Amy
  • Benson, D Woodrow
  • Kaizer, Alexander M
  • Thomas, J Fred
  • 1 Colorado Fetal Care Center, the Heart Institute, the Department of Pediatrics, and the TeleHealth Department, Children's Hospital Colorado, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, and St. Mary's Medical Center, Grand Junction, Colorado; the Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin; Milwaukee Wisconsin; and the Department of Biostatistics and Informatics, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado.
Published Article
Obstetrics and gynecology
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2019
DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003502
PMID: 31599844


To evaluate a fetal telecardiology program in a medically underserved area. We conducted a prospective case series of pregnant women at 18-38 weeks of gestation with risk factors for fetal congenital heart disease. Obstetric ultrasonographers performed fetal echocardiograms (local site) that were read in real time. The results were given to the mother by a fetal cardiologist at a children's hospital 243 miles and two mountain passes away (distant site). We evaluated the fetal telecardiology program in five domains: 1) education of obstetric ultrasonographers before initiation of telecardiology services, 2) process and efficiency, 3) patient satisfaction, 4) economic effects, and 5) accuracy of cardiac diagnosis and success of risk stratification. The program was initiated on November 12, 2015, and here we describe its first 37 months. Over the initial training period of 3 months and about 70 examinations, obstetric ultrasonographers improved their identification of fetal congenital heart disease. Telecardiology was performed once a week and also for suspected fetal congenital heart disease or arrhythmia outside clinic hours, for a total of 455 examinations. All mothers preferred having their fetal cardiac evaluations performed locally as opposed to traveling to the distant center. The estimated cost to parents for fetal cardiac evaluation at the distant center was nine times greater than that of telecardiology ($581 vs $61). Congenital heart disease or arrhythmia was diagnosed in 28 and 15 fetuses, respectively; there was one false-negative result. All fetuses were correctly risk-stratified with respect to delivery location. Neither diagnostic quality nor patient satisfaction were sacrificed with telecardiology. The program was feasible, empowered the local health care providers and ultrasonographers, offered strong economic advantages to families, and offered the benefit of timely standard-of-care, face-to-face consultation without travel. Based on the success of this program, further studies are warranted to assess its replicability.

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