Diagnosing heart defects in babies before birth is crucial to ensure that your baby gets any needed treatment as early as possible. If there’s a possibility of a congenital heart defect or other heart abnormality, your doctor may recommend a fetal echocardiogram. Read on to discover what this entails, who needs, when it can be performed and and what to expect.
What is a fetal echocardiogram?
During a routine pregnancy ultrasound, your obstetrician will take pictures of your baby and check the baby’s heart rate. A fetal echocardiogram is a detailed way to look at the baby’s heart using ultrasound. A pediatric cardiologist performs this focused and detailed study. A fetal echocardiogram can detect abnormalities of cardiac structure, cardiac rhythm disturbances and disorders of cardiac function.
Who needs a detailed fetal echocardiogram?
Some pregnancies have a higher risk for congenital heart disease and should be considered for a fetal echocardiogram. Indications for fetal echocardiogram may include the following:
- A family history of congenital heart disease. This includes either parent or a previous child with congenital heart disease.
- Family history of certain inherited disorders
- Invitrofertilization (IVF)
- Autoimmune Antibodies anti-Ro(SSA)/anti-La(SSB)
- Fetal cardiac or other organ system abnormalities detected during routine obstetric evaluation
- Fetal chromosomal abnormality
- An abnormal fetal heart rhythm
- Insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus
- Exposure to drugs early in pregnancy that can result in cardiac abnormalities
- Fetal Hydrops
- Increased nuchal translucency thickness
- Monochorionic twins
When can a fetal echocardiogram be performed?
The heart motion can be seen from about six weeks of gestation. However, details of the heart cannot be seen through the abdomen until later in gestation. The ideal time for an initial fetal echocardiogram is 18-22 weeks. There are no known risks to the mother or the baby during a fetal echocardiogram.
What can I expect during fetal echocardiogram visit?
Your fetal echocardiogram visit begins with a detailed ultrasound evaluation of the heart. This is followed by a consultation with one of the specialists in fetal echocardiography. At Fetal Care Center Dallas, Reenu Eapen, MD and Maytham Al-Kubaisi, MD are pediatric cardiologists who specialize in evaluation of the fetal heart. During your consultation, the findings and the limitations of the study will be explained and you will have the opportunity to discuss your questions and concerns regarding the fetal heart.
To make an appointment for this service, or one of our others including diagnostic testing, fetal genetic testing or maternal-fetal medicine, call 972-566-5600 or fill out the contact us form below.