Fetal Echocardiograms

Also known as: fetal echo.

What are fetal echocardiograms?

A fetal echocardiogram is a detailed ultrasound performed of the baby's heart before the baby is born. A small camera called a transducer is placed on the pregnant mother's abdomen and sends out ultrasonic sound waves. The ultrasound waves bounce off the baby's organs, including the heart and are sent back to the camera which then creates a moving picture of the different parts of the heart for the doctor to evaluate. The sound waves can also detect blood flow throughout the baby's heart. This enables the doctor to evaluate the structure and function of the fetal heart.

What happens during the test?

There is gel applied to the mother's abdomen, the ultrasound probe is gently placed on the mother's abdomen and pictures are taken. This test is not painful and causes no harm to the baby. The test takes an average of 45–120 minutes depending on the complexity of the baby's heart.

Is any special preparation needed?

Unlike some routine prenatal ultrasounds, a full bladder is not necessary for a fetal echocardiogram. It is always important to have as much information as possible when you come for your fetal echocardiogram; especially the details of why you were referred by your obstetrician or perinatologist. If the reason for referral is that you have a heart defect yourself, bringing whatever medical records you have will be very helpful. The study can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over 2 hours depending on what the findings are; it is always a good idea to bring another caregiver if you have other small children with you.

What are the risk factors?

  • An echo can’t harm you.
  • An echo doesn’t hurt and has no side effects.
Fetal echocardiograms at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital: Echocardiography at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital are performed by highly trained technicians and are interpreted by board-certified pediatric cardiologists with expertise in non-invasive imaging. The echocardiography laboratory is accredited by the intersocietal accreditation commission.

Reviewed by: Nao Sasaki, MD

This page was last updated on: 6/18/2019 12:16:37 PM