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Fetal echocardiography is an ultrasound test performed during pregnancy to evaluate the heart of the unborn baby.
Fetal echocardiography can help detect fetal heart abnormalities before birth, allowing for faster medical or surgical intervention once the baby is born. This improves the chance of survival after delivery for babies with serious heart defects.
Not all pregnant mothers need an echocardiogram. The standard prenatal ultrasound tests can give information about whether the fetal heart has developed with all four chambers and most pregnant women don’t need any further testing. Situations in which a fetal echocardiogram may be necessary include:
Fetal echocardiograms are usually performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, at about 18 weeks. The test is sometimes done earlier in pregnancy using transvaginal ultrasound (the ultrasound probe is inserted in the mother's vagina), but will be repeated later to confirm any findings.
A fetal echocardiogram is performed by a pediatric cardiologist or a maternal fetal specialist (also called a perinatologist) who is specially trained. The test may be done using an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound.
During the test, the transducer probe will be moved around to obtain images of different locations and structures of the fetal heart. Techniques sometimes used to obtain detailed information about the fetal heart include:
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.”