Purpose Abnormal flow in the ductus venosus (DV) has been reported to be associated with adverse perinatal outcome, chromosomal abnormalities, and congenital heart defects (CHD). Aneuploid fetuses have increased risk of CHD, but there are discrepancies on the performance of this markers in euploid fetuses. The aim of this meta-analysis was to establish the predictive accuracy of DV for CHD. Methods MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL were searched from inception to February 2022. No language or geographical restrictions were applied. Inclusion criteria regarded observational and randomized studies concerning first-trimester DV flow as CHD marker. Random effect meta-analyses to calculate risk ratio (RR) with 95% confidence interval (CI), hierarchical summary receiver-operating characteristics (HSROC), and bivariate models to evaluate diagnostic accuracy were used. Primary outcome was the diagnostic performance of DV in detecting prenatal CHD by means of area under the curve (AUROC). Subgroup analysis for euploid, high-risk, and normal NT fetuses was performed. Quality assessment of included papers was performed using QUADAS-2. Results Twenty two studies, with a total of 204.829 fetuses undergoing first trimester scan with DV Doppler evaluation, fulfilled the inclusion criteria for this systematic review. Overall, abnormal DV flow at the time of first trimester screening was associated to an increased risk of CHD (RR 6.9, 95% CI 3.7-12.6; I-2 = 95.2%) as well in unselected (RR: 6.4, 95% CI 2.5-16.4; I-2 = 93.3%) and in euploid (RR: 6.45, 95% CI 3.3-12.6; I-2 = 95.8%) fetuses. The overall diagnostic accuracy of abnormal DV in detecting CHD was good in euploid fetuses with an AUROC of 0.81 (95% CI 0.78-0.84), but it was poor in the high-risk group with an AUROC of 0.66 (95% CI 0.62-0.70) and in the unselected population with an AUROC of 0.44 (95% CI 0.40-0.49). Conclusions Abnormal DV in the first trimester increases the risk of CHD with a moderate sensitivity for euploid fetuses. In combination with other markers (NT, TV regurgitation) could be helpful to identify fetuses otherwise considered to be at low risk for CHD. In addition to the improvement of the fetal heart examination in the first trimester, this strategy can increase the detection of major CHD at earlier stage of pregnancy.
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