fetal echocardio anchorage

FETAL ECHOCARDIOGRAM



A Fetal echocardiogram is a highly detailed ultrasound examination of the fetal heart. Even though a careful examination of the heart is performed during every routine 2nd Trimester Anomaly Scan, it is sometimes recommended to have a detailed examination performed by a heart specialist. Fetal echocardiography is provided in our office in collaboration with Pediatric Cardiologists from Seattle Children's Hospital Alaska and Alaska Children's Heart.

Common Questions

Women who have an increased risk of having a baby with a congenital heart disease or in whom a cardiac malformation is suspected by the initial ultrasound study.

Indications include the following:

  • Family history of congenital heart disease - If a previous child had a congenital heart defect, the risk of a defect in subsequent pregnancies is about 1/50. If a parent has had a congenital heart defect the risk is about 1/10 to 1/20
  • Abnormal fetal heart rhythm
  • Fetal heart abnormalities suspected on a routine pregnancy scan
  • Abnormality of another major organ system
  • Insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus
  • Exposure to some drugs in early pregnancy, for example, some anti-epileptic drugs can damage the developing heart
  • Thickened Nuchal translucency noted in first trimester
  • Pregnancies resulting from IVF
  • Abnormal amniocentesis

The heart motion can be seen from about six weeks of gestation. However, details of heart structure cannot be seen until:

- 14 weeks gestation using transvaginal technique
- 18 weeks gestation using transabdominal method.
* Sometimes repeat examinations are needed.

  • Abnormalities of cardiac structure (congenital heart disease)
  • Cardiac rhythm disturbances (or arrhythmias)
  • Disorders of cardiac function

Other Questions

Some heart abnormalities are not detectable prenatally even with an expert detailed examination. These tend to be minor defects, such as small holes in the heart, or mild valve abnormalities. In addition, some cardiac defects do not become evident until after birth.

The fetal echocardiogram focuses on the heart. The fetal echocardiographer may not see defects in other parts of the fetus.

The detection of a heart defect increases the risk of finding other malformations in the child. A detailed ultrasound of the rest of the fetus is necessary. Also, amniocentesis to test the chromosomes may be recommended. A serious or even life-threatening heart abnormality may be identified. It may have a significant impact on the future of the child. In such an event, you will be counseled by the Pediatric Cardiologist at the time of the examination.

Currently only cardiac rhythm disturbances are being treated before birth. In the future a number of structural cardiac defects may be treated before birth.

In many cases of congenital heart disease diagnosed prenatally, it is safest to deliver the baby at the center at which postnatal treatment will take place. This is especially true if surgery will be required soon after birth. Determination of whether delivery can take place in Alaska or at a specialized center in the lower 48 will be made by the Pediatric Cardiologist

  • A perinatologist or obstetrician can advise you about the management of your pregnancy.
  • A pediatric cardiologist is in the best position to give advice about the outlook for your child’s heart problem.
  • A genetic counselor can provide information about a fetus with an associated genetic syndrome, if present, and advise about future pregnancies.
  • A cardiac surgeon can give details about surgical procedures that may be needed.
  • A nurse, who is familiar with heart disease in children, can provide information about caring for a child with congenital heart disease.

What to Expect

The exam will usually be performed with an external ultrasound transducer. You will remain dressed and asked to lie flat on the exam table with your lower abdomen exposed. Warm gel will be placed on your skin. The sonographer will then position an ultrasound transducer on your abdomen and use varied amounts of pressure to obtain the desired images.

Exam Preparation

Begin drinking 16 to 24 oz of WATER 1 hour before your scheduled appointment time and do not empty your bladder until instructed to do so.