Fetal Echogenic Intracardiac Focus (EIF)

An echogenic intracardiac focus (EIF) is a small white spot (as bright as bone) seen in the baby’s heart during an ultrasound examination.[1]. These bright spots appear to be caused by small deposits of calcium in the papillary muscle of the heart [2,3]. EIF are most often a normal finding and have no significant effect on the development of the heart [1,4]. EIF may be seen in up to 30, 6, and 11 % of Asian, black, and white fetuses respectively [5].

Some studies have shown that a baby is is more likely to have Down syndrome when an EIF  is seen if the mother isover the age of 35 years old, has abnormal serum screening, or additional ultrasound findings [1,6,7]. These babies may be about twice as likely to have Down syndrome when an EIF is seen [7, 8, 9, 10]

If an echogenic intracardiac focus is found on routine ultrasound then a
targeted level II sonogram should be performed

  • To distinguish an EIF from a fetal cardiac tumor. Fetal cardiac tumors are most commonly found within the cardiac muscle or septum. Cardiac tumors tend to be larger, multiple, and are not
    as bright as the typical “echogenic focus”.
  • To identify additional markers for Down syndrome if present.

An echogenic intracardiac focus is not a birth defect,  and does not cause any long term health problems or heart problems for the baby.

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