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Fetal Echocardiography

Lee Health: Your Trusted Heart Specialists For Diagnosing Pediatric Cardiac Diseases

Lee Health pediatric cardiologists understand that identifying potential cardiac challenges early is essential for developing a care plan. Our specialists offer the most advanced and effective cardiac treatment options for children, and we are here to help you.

What is a fetal echocardiography (echo)?

Fetal echocardiography (echo) is a test that uses sound waves to evaluate the heart of your developing baby to detect potential heart problems before birth. Fetal echocardiography takes place while the baby is still in the womb, most often during the second trimester when a mother is about 18 to 24 weeks along.

Similar to a pregnancy ultrasound, mothers will lie down during he procedure. A technician will place a clear, water-based gel on the mother’s belly and will move a hand-held probe over the area.

The probe sends out sound waves, which bounce off the baby's heart and create a picture on a computer screen. The test lasts about one to two hours depending on the position of the fetus. Neither you nor the baby will feel the ultrasound waves, although the conducting gel may feel cold and wet on your skin.

The test can show:

  • Blood flow through the heart
  • Heart rhythm
  • Structures of the baby's heart
  • Your child's cardiac health is at the heart of our mission: To use the latest technology to diagnose and provide ongoing care while creating a warm environment for families.

Why get fetal echocardiography?

While there are a variety of reasons to get a fetal echo, below are some of the more common reasons your provider may recommend one. 

Your Lee Health provider may recommend a fetal echo if:

  • A parent, sibling, or other close family member had a heart defect or heart disease.
  • A routine pregnancy ultrasound detected an abnormal heart rhythm or possible heart problem in the unborn baby.
  • The mother has diabetes (before pregnancy), lupus, or phenylketonuria.
  • The mother has rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • The mother has used medicines that can damage the baby's developing heart (such as some epilepsy drugs and prescription acne medicines).
  • An amniocentesis revealed a chromosome disorder.
  • There is some other reason to suspect that the baby has a higher risk for heart problems.

Pediatric Cardiology Centers Serving Southwest Florida

Some of the benefits of a fetal echo include:

  • Ability to detect a heart problem early enough to potentially treat the condition before birth
  • Helping providers prepare for any complications that can happen during labor and delivery
  • Scheduling an early delivery when necessary.
  • Making a treatment plan for after the baby is born, including medicine or surgery.

Pediatric Cardiology Specialists Near You

What abnormal results from a fetal echocardiography (echo) mean:

Abnormal results may be because of:

  • A problem in the way the baby's heart has formed (congenital heart disease)
  • A problem with the way the baby's heart works
  • Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmia)

Risks of a fetal echo:

There are no known risks to the mother or unborn baby.

Considerations of Fetal Echocardiography (Echo)

Some heart defects cannot be seen before birth, even with fetal echocardiography. These include small holes in the heart or mild valve problems. And sometimes tests cannot see every part of the blood vessels leading out of the baby’s heart. Problems in this area may go undetected.

If the health care provider finds a problem in the structure of the heart, he or she may order a detailed ultrasound to look for other problems with the developing baby.

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