Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) | Diagnosis

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For the baby in utero

Most pregnant women have fetal ultrasounds in the course of their pregnancies. If a basic (level one) ultrasound shows the possibility of heart abnormalities, a more detailed cardiac ultrasound (fetal echo) can correctly diagnose your baby’s heart defect. In addition, an advanced general (level two) ultrasound at Boston Children’s Hospital's Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC) can detect other anomalies, if these are present:

  • fetal echocardiography (ultrasound, fetal echocardiogram, fetal echo): electronically recorded sound waves that produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves. A diagnosis of HLHS through prenatal cardiac ultrasound is key to planning for:
    • fetal cardiac intervention: In some select situations, our doctors can treat the baby’s heart while still in the womb.
    • Alternatively (or in addition), we can plan in advance for effective delivery of the baby, and for his immediate stabilization once he’s born. Upon the baby’s birth, our AFCC team brings together all the pediatric and obstetric specialists necessary for critical care, as well as support services for families.
  • fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) enables us to acquire additional important anatomic information. Drawing on our expertise in precise pediatric imaging, the AFCC is setting a new standard in fetal MRI.

For the newborn baby

Some combination (not necessarily all) of the following medical tests will be used to diagnose HLHS and its related defects in a newborn:

  • echocardiography (ultrasound): The ultrasound on the newborn’s heart will reveal critical information about the extent of the HLHS abnormality—including the size and anatomy of the left ventricle, heart valves and other structures.
  • electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG): An EKG evaluates the electrical activity of your child’s heart.
  • cardiovascular MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A heart MRI is a non-invasive test using 3-D imaging technology produced by magnets to accurately determine the blood flow and functioning of your child's heart.
  • cardiac catheterization: provides detailed visual information and measurements about the structures inside the heart. Cardiac catheterization can be diagnostic-only, diagnostic and therapeutic, or diagnostic and interventional.

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Boston Children’s Heart Care Center 

The Heart Care Center at Boston Children’s is one of the largest pediatric heart programs in the United States. Our staff of more than 80 pediatric cardiac specialists cares for thousands of children and adults with congenital and acquired heart defects each year, from simple to complex cases. We have experience treating rare heart problems—with results that are among the best in the world.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944
For Referring Providers: 844-BCH-PEDS