A common finding on diagnostic ultrasound is a bright spot within your baby’s heart also known as an echogenic intracardiac focus (EIF).
These spots are calcified papillary muscles. The tips of these muscles are tied to the small strings (cordae tendineae or heart strings) that open and close the valves of the heart. The normal heart motion causes trivial amounts of calcium to build up on the tips of these muscles and are the EIFs seen on ultrasound. They neither structurally nor functionally interfere with the baby’s heart function. They are not related to the mother’s calcium intake. Historically, they have been seen as a weak risk factor or “soft sign” related to a small increased risk of Down Syndrome.
Currently, with today’s technology, echogenic foci are seen in up to 10% of all patients and up to 30% of patients from India and Asia. The increased risk based on this common ultrasound finding is frequently insignificant. For example, the overall, the risk for a 30-year old for Down Syndrome is about 1:700, and a 30-year old with an EIF is about 1:630. However, if you are 35 or older at delivery or have other risk factors for Down Syndrome, you might want to consider genetic counseling, additional blood testing or diagnostic amniocentesis. When an EIF is seen on a screening ultrasound, a more detailed ultrasound of the heart may be ordered. We at Austin Perinatal have all of these services readily available to you should you or your obstetric care provider wish to utilize them.
As always, Dr. Berry and all of the staff at Austin Perinatal Associates are happy to answer any questions that you may have.