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.
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:
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.
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