oa South African Medical Journal - Late termination of pregnancy by intracardiac potassium chloride injection : 5 years' experience at a tertiary referral centre : research

Volume 103, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



To report our experience with intracardiac potassium chloride (KCl) injection as a method of feticide for severe congenital abnormalities beyond 24 weeks' gestation.
A retrospective chart review. Patient demographics and types of fetal anomalies were analysed according to the groups that accepted or declined late termination of pregnancy (LTOP, ≥24 weeks) for severe congenital abnormalities.
Of 3 896 women referred to the Fetal Medicine Unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, KwaZulu-Natal, 2 209 (56.7%) were at ≥24 weeks' gestation at their first visit. LTOP for severe congenital abnormalities was offered to 253 (11.5%), of whom 191 (75.5%) accepted. Differences in maternal age, parity, race and religion were not statistically significant. The type of fetal abnormalities and gestational age at diagnosis influenced the decision-making process in >80% of the women. The most frequent indications for LTOP were brain and spinal abnormalities (53.0%), and aneuploidy (20.6%). Feticide by ultrasound-guided intracardiac KCl injection was performed in 138/191 cases (72.2%); 53 women who accepted LTOP did not undergo feticide for a variety of reasons. The mean interval between diagnosis and performance of feticide was 10 days (range 0 - 42 days). Fetal asystole was achieved in all cases within 2 minutes by a single-needle injection of intracardiac KCl; the mean duration of the procedure was 12 minutes (range 6 - 25 minutes). There were no maternal complications, and stillbirths occurred in all cases.
Feticide by ultrasound-guided intracardiac KCl injection was an acceptable, safe and effective method for LTOP. Further studies are needed to determine the minimum dosage of KCl required to achieve the desired effect.

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