Heart Center: Echocardiography

One of the most widely used non-invasive diagnostic tests for heart disease is echocardiography. Because it uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the heart muscle, it can be used even before a child is born. It allows the medical staff to determine facts about the patient’s heart, such as size and pumping strength, as well as to diagnose potential health issues, such as valvular problems and fluid around the heart, blood clots, and masses inside the heart or abnormal defects within the chambers.

Children’s echocardiography laboratory earns prestigious accreditation

The echocardiography laboratory at Children’s Heart Center was granted accreditation in 2005 for transthoracic, transesophageal and fetal studies from the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiographic Laboratories (ICAEL).

Frequently asked questions

Who needs a detailed fetal echocardiogram?

Some pregnancies have a higher risk of a baby with congenital heart disease and should be considered for referral for a fetal echocardiogram. Indications for fetal echocardiogram may include the following:

  • A family history of congenital heart disease. This includes either parent or a previous child with congenital heart disease.
  • Fetal cardiac or other organ system abnormalities detected during routine obstetric evaluation.
  • Abnormal amniocentesis.
  • An abnormal fetal heart rhythm.
  • Insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus.
  • Exposure to drugs early in pregnancy that can result in cardiac abnormalities.

When can a fetal echocardiogram be performed?

The heart motion can be seen from about six weeks of gestation. However, details of the heart cannot be seen through the abdomen until later in gestation. The ideal time for an initial fetal echocardiogram is 18-22 weeks. There are no known risks to the mother or the fetus.

Do I need a full bladder?

No, this is not necessary for a fetal echocardiogram.

What can I expect during my visit?

The visit begins with a detailed ultrasound evaluation of the heart. This is followed by a consultation with one of the specialists in fetal echocardiography. During the consultation the findings and the limitations of the study will be explained and you will have the opportunity to discuss your questions and concerns regarding your baby’s heart.

Please allow at least two hours for this comprehensive visit. For questions or to make an appointment, call 800-947-2323.