Transmission of electric and magnetic foetal cardiac signals in a case of ectopia cordis: the dominant role of the vernix caseosa

Physics in Medicine & Biology - 1999-11-16Wakai RT, Lengle JM, Leuthold A10.1088/0031-9155/45/7/320
Foetal electrocardiograms (fECGs) and foetal magnetocardiograms (fMCGs) were recorded in the 26th, 29th and 31st weeks of gestation from a foetus with ectopia cordis - a rare condition in which the heart lies outside the chest wall. This provided an opportunity to study foetal cardiograms uninfluenced by the insulating effects of the foetal skin and vernix caseosa. The fECG of the ectopia cordis foetus was striking. Unlike recordings from age-matched normal foetuses, recordings from this subject had very high signal-to-noise ratio and showed no anomalous signal transmission properties. In contrast, fMCGs recorded from the ectopia cordis foetus and normal foetuses were largely similar. Both showed high signal-to-noise ratio and signal transmission properties consistent with volume conduction. The findings corroborate the hypothesis that high foetal skin resistance due primarily to the vernix caseosa is responsible for the low amplitude and anomalous transmission properties of the normal fECG, and demonstrate that the fMCG is relatively insensitive to conductivity inhomogeneities.