Health Professional News

The Midwest Fetal Care Center participates in NIH study to reverse heart block during pregnancy

The Midwest Fetal Care Center (MWFCC), a collaboration between Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health, is participating in a large multicenter National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study targeting improved surveillance and care for pregnant women with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies who are at risk for fetal heart block. The Surveillance and Treatment to Prevent Fetal Atrioventricular Block Likely to Occur Quickly, or STOP BLOQ, trial is led by expert researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Colorado and is expected to complete enrollment in August 2025.

Learn more about the STOP BLOQ study

“The results of this important study may potentially result in landmark changes in the prenatal management of pregnant women with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies around the world, with improved risk stratification, surveillance, and treatment strategies,” said Dr. Lisa Howley, medical director of fetal cardiology at Children’s Minnesota, the MWFCC’s primary site investigator for the trial.

The STOP BLOQ study has three main goals:

  1. Investigate if the blood levels of maternal anti-SSA/Ro antibodies can be used to risk stratify whether a mother is at greater risk of having a child develop heart block in utero.
  2. Assess whether pregnant women can successfully use at-home heart rate monitoring to identify fetal rhythm abnormalities.
  3. If fetal heart block is discovered, determine if early treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy and dexamethasone can stop or reverse the baby’s heart damage.

The MWFCC is one of 30 sites across the United States and Canada participating in the study. Since opening enrollment in spring 2021, the MWFCC has enrolled 22 subjects – the highest subject enrollment behind the lead study sites. Over half of the subjects are designated as high risk. Dr. Lisa Howley is a co-author on two accepted abstracts for preliminary analysis of this work which were presented at the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology and American College of Rheumatology annual meetings in 2021.

Midwest Fetal Care Center

At Midwest Fetal Care Center, a collaboration between Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health, we understand care involves an entire team. If your patient’s ultrasound results are abnormal, we’re here to help. As the largest program of its kind in the Upper Midwest, our fetal care program provides evaluation, diagnosis and intervention for high-risk pregnancies. Download and submit the referral form and necessary records, then one of our nurse care coordinators will contact your patient to schedule an appointment.

Nick Petersen