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Fetal Echocardiography

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a very close look at your baby’s heart. We do this with fetal echocardiography. Our doctors and sonographers have advanced training and certification should this need arise. We adhere to strict guidelines developed by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM).

Why would I need a fetal echocardiogram?

We may perform a fetal echocardiogram for a number of conditions that may place your baby at risk for being born with a heart disease. Some of these include diabetes, systemic lupus, you or your partner being born with a heart disease or having first degree relatives with newborn heart disease, and exposure to drugs, alcohol, or certain medications during pregnancy. We may also perform an fetal echocardiogram if we find that your baby has an abnormal cardiac screening examination, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, a suspected chromosomal abnormality such as Down syndrome, or abnormal measurements on a Nuchal Translucency ultrasound. Also, fetal echocardiography is often performed on identical (monochorionic) twins or if there is an unexplained increase in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.

When would I have a fetal echocardiogram?

Most often, we will perform a fetal echocardiogram at 22-24 weeks gestation (5 ½ to 6 months), but is sometimes indicated at other times during gestation. This specialized diagnostic procedure is an extension of the basic fetal cardiac screening traditionally performed at the 18-20 week “anatomy survey.”

What will happen during my exam?

Over the course of 30-45 minutes, the heart’s size, position, and function will be assessed by ultrasound. We examine the heart by looking at blood flowing in the vessels into and out of the heart, into and out of each of the four chambers, through each of the four valves, and through two by-pass tracks. We will also determine the baby’s heart rate and rhythm.

By the end of the study, we are most often able to determine if there is a problem with your baby’s heart. We can then discuss your options for follow up care.

Sometimes technical limitations, including the baby’s positioning, make it not possible to complete the detailed heart evaluation. In these cases, we may schedule a follow-up visit in 2-4 weeks.

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