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. The fetal echo checks your baby’s heart structure, rhythm, and function as well as the growth and development of your baby.

What happens during the test?

There is gel applied to the mother's abdomen, then 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.

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 echocardiogram does not hurt, and has no side effects and causes no harm to the mother or baby.

What if my baby has a heart defect?

Echocardiography at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is 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.

We understand that facing a diagnosis of your baby’s heart condition can be very frightening. The Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children's Hospital has the expertise to support you and your baby throughout this journey. If a heart defect is detected, your pediatric cardiologist will explain your treatment options.

Reviewed by: Nao Sasaki, MD

This page was last updated on: March 11, 2021 02:03 PM

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