Testing & diagnosis for ebstein's anomaly in children

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Contact the Congenital Heart Valve Program

At Boston Children's Hospital, we understand that the first step in treating your child is forming an accurate, complete and timely diagnosis

The exam

If your newborn baby was born with a bluish tint to his skin, or if your young child is experiencing certain symptoms, your pediatrician will immediately refer you to a pediatric cardiologist (and/or neonatologist), who will perform a physical exam. Your child’s doctor will listen to your baby’s heart and lungs, measure the oxygen level in his blood (non-invasively) and make other observations that help to determine the diagnosis.

Your child’s cardiologist will also investigate whether he has a heart murmur—a noise heard through the stethoscope that’s caused by the turbulence of blood flow. If there’s a murmur, the location in the chest where the murmur is best heard, as well as the sound and character of the murmur itself, will give the cardiologist an initial idea of the kind of heart problem your baby may have.

Note: If your baby’s case of Ebstein’s anomaly was detected prenatally through ultrasound, upon birth he’ll be immediately admitted for stabilization and surgery.

The tests

Other diagnostic tests are needed to help with the diagnosis and may include the following:

  • echocardiogram (echo, cardiac ultrasound): evaluates the structure and function of your child’s heart using electronically recorded sound waves that produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves. This test confirms the diagnosis of Ebstein’s anomaly. It’s also used to check for any associated defects, such as atrial septal defects and/or ventricular septal defects. No discomfort is involved. It takes 30-60 minutes.
  • chest x-ray: shows the size and spatial relationships of the heart within the child’s chest. In Ebstein’s anomaly, a chest x-ray would show an enlarged heart. In severe cases involving newborn babies, the silhouette of the heart almost completely fills the chest. It takes a few moments. There’s no pain or discomfort.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): evaluates the electrical activity of your child’s heart. An EKG may be the first test used on an older child who’s complaining of a racing heart, since it records the heart’s rhythm and will show any abnormal rhythms. The EKG is performed by placing electrodes on the arms, legs and chest to record the electrical activity. It takes five minutes or less and involves no pain or discomfort.

For images and videos of these tools for diagnosing Ebstein’s anomaly, visit the Ebstein’s anomaly section of our cardiovascular Multimedia library.

Watch a webcast of heart surgery at Boston Children’s
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