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September 3, 1938

AN UNEXPECTED ELECTROCARDIOGRAM OF THE FETUS

Author Affiliations

Springfield, Mass.

JAMA. 1938;111(10):916-917. doi:10.1001/jama.1938.72790360002006a
Abstract

Electrocardiograms of the human fetus in utero are apparently comparatively rare; a search through the Quarterly Cumulative Index Medicus for the past five years discloses no references in the literature except for the work of Strassmann and his associates1 in Germany in 1933, which was summarized by Strassmann2 in this country in 1936. Sachs3 had reported such studies in 1922, as did some Japanese workers4 seven years later.

There are two possible explanations for the rarity of such observations in the face of the immense amount of electrocardiographic material now available. The galvanometric deflections of the electrocardiogram of the fetus are so faint that they defy detection unless the base line is smooth and entirely free of oscillations. And even with an ideal graphic background the human fetal heart and the corresponding cardiac current are too weak to appear in a routine electrocardiogram, as Strassmann2

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