Fetal echocardiogram

Specialty of Paediatric cardiology

What is it?

A foetal echocardiography/echocardiogram is a scan that allows a specialist or doctor to see how a baby’s heart is functioning during pregnancy. The scan is carried out to discover any possible congenital cardiac anomalies. If the baby is found to have a heart problem, the echocardiography helps monitor the baby’s heart until the mother gives birth.

This examination is not part of the routine tests done during pregnancy, but your doctor may advise it if there is a suspicion of a specific malformation.

What does it involve?

You will be asked to lie down and an ultrasound probe will be moved across your abdomen: the probe is connected to a machine that displays and records the images produced. This allows to observe the cardiac anatomy of the foetus (two-dimensional). The test uses colour Doppler or pulsed Doppler imaging to observe the blood flow of the heart. 

Why would you do it?

The main reasons a foetal echocardiography may need to be done are:

  • Heart abnormalities found during an ultrasound
  • Maternal heart diseases or any other type of diseases affecting the mother such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, infections incurred during the pregnancy (as for example rubella)
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Genetic abnormalities of the baby
  • Twins that share a single placenta (identical or monochorionic twins)
  • Certain drugs or alcohol consumed during the pregnancy

How to prepare for it

You don’t need any specific preparation before the scan, but it is necessary that you check your family's medical history to understand if there is any potential cardiac disease that may be genetically hereditary, as well as bringing the results of the ultrasound with you to have them compared with the results of the foetal echocardiography.

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