Riley Children's Health performs fetal echocardiograms for pregnant mothers. These echocardiograms are done when there is a concern that the unborn baby may have heart problems. These heart problems could potentially affect the baby's growth and development.
Early fetal cardiac imaging helps Riley Children’s specialists plan a safe delivery and medical management after birth for your child.
What is a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echo is a test done during pregnancy to check the baby's heart for heart problems. It uses ultrasound to look for congenital heart disease or other heart conditions. Its purpose is to provide a comprehensive view into the structure and function of the fetal heart.
A fetal echo takes videos of different structures and blood flow of the fetal heart for a pediatric cardiologist to evaluate. It is safe and does not pose a risk to you or your child. The Fetal Cardiology Program at Riley Children’s performs more than 2,500 fetal echos per year. last
Why Do I Need a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echo can identify heart defects before birth and it not necessary for all pregnant women. Your obstetrician (OB) or maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctor may refer you for a fetal echo if a prenatal ultrasound test detects a possible fetal heart issue. This may also be done for other reasons:
- A prenatal ultrasound detects a possible structural heart defect or arrhythmia
- Family history of congenital heart disease in either a parent or siblings of the fetus
- Chromosomal abnormalities from prenatal genetic testing
- The fetus has other non-cardiac abnormalities
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancies
- Twin, triplet, or multiple fetus pregnancies
- Frequent abuse of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
- Mother has diabetes, lupus, or other chronic diseases
- An OB or MFM doctor has a question about the fetus’ heart anatomy or function
When During Pregnancy is a Fetal Echocardiogram Usually Performed?
Doctors often perform fetal echos between 18-24 weeks gestation or the second trimester of pregnancy. It can be done up to full term, as well. A skilled doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies may do a fetal echo before 18 weeks gestation.
What to Expect
What to Expect
How is a Fetal Echo Performed?
A fetal echo is like a prenatal ultrasound test. A fetal sonographer or pediatric cardiologist with specialized training will perform the test while you lie flat or on your side.
The sonographer will apply warm gel to your belly. They will then use a device called a transducer to capture images of the baby's heart. It’s a painless test and it takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.
How Will Results from the Test Be Used?
Our pediatric cardiologists have advanced training in fetal imaging and cardiac ultrasound. After a fetal echo, a pediatric cardiologist will evaluate the imaging to see how your baby’s heart is functioning. We will share the results on the same day.
If a problem is found with the baby's heart, the Fetal Center will create a plan for the birth and treatment. This plan will include care for the baby after the baby is born. The plan will be developed by a team of expert providers from many specialties.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- A fetal echo is a test done during pregnancy to check the baby's heart for heart problems. It uses ultrasound to look for congenital heart disease or other heart conditions.
- A fetal echo can identify heart defects before birth and it not necessary for all pregnant women.
- Doctors typically perform fetal ultrasounds during the second trimester of pregnancy, specifically between 18 to 24 weeks. It’s a painless test and it takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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