Fetal echocardiography (echo) is an imaging test. It uses sound waves (ultrasound) to form pictures of a baby's heart before birth. The test checks for certain problems in a baby's heart structure or heart rhythm. Detection of these problems allows for understanding and management of a child's heart problem as early as possible. The test is painless and noninvasive.
Fetal echo can be done when you're at least 16 weeks pregnant. Your doctor may recommend this test if you:
Had a pregnancy ultrasound that rais ed concern about a possible heart problem.
Had problems detected by an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. These are tests that check for genetic diseases and chromosomal problems.
Have a family history of congenital heart disease.
Are taking certain medications that may affect your baby's development.
Have a family history of certain genetic diseases linked with heart defects and disease.
Have diabetes or other conditions.
You may need to have a full bladder for the test.
Follow all other instructions given by your doctor.
The test is performed by an ultrasound technologist or a specially trained cardiologist. A cardiologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats heart problems. The test lasts about 30-60 minutes.
You lie on an exam table with your abdomen uncovered.
Clear, non-greasy gel is applied to your skin.
A hand-held transducer (probe) is moved across your abdomen.
Sound waves from the transducer are processed by a computer. Images of your baby's heart are seen on a screen.
Unless told not to, you can return to your normal routine and diet right away.
Your doctor may discuss early results with you right after the test. You'll receive complete results when they're ready.
Most complex heart problems can be diagnosed with fetal echo. But certain heart problems can't be diagnosed until after the baby is born.
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Date Last Modified: 2006-11-02T00:00:00-06:00
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