Fetal echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that assesses your baby’s heart structures and function. This test enables your physician to detect heart abnormalities before your baby is born, allowing for faster medical or surgical intervention after birth.
Fetal echocardiograms are usually performed in the second trimester of pregnancy. Your physician may recommend a fetal echocardiogram if:
- A sibling was born with a congenital heart defect
- There is a family history of congenital heart disease
- A chromosomal or genetic abnormality is detected in your baby
- You have taken certain medications that cause congenital heart defects, such as anti-seizure medications or prescription acne medications
- You have abused alcohol during pregnancy
- You have diabetes, phenylketonuria or a connective tissue disease such as lupus
- You had rubella during pregnancy
- A routine prenatal ultrasound discovered possible heart, kidney, brain or bone abnormalities
What to Expect
During a fetal echocardiogram, a small probe called a transducer is placed on your abdomen. The transducer sends out sound waves that bounce, or echo, off your baby's heart structures. The computer interprets these echoes into an image of the heart walls and valves.
The specialists at UPMC in Central Pa. are highly trained in the latest techniques to obtain accurate information about your baby's heart, including:
- 2-D echocardiography. This technique is used to see the actual structures and real-time motion of your baby's heart.
- Doppler echocardiography. This procedure can detect abnormal blood flow within the heart, which can indicate an opening between the chambers of the heart or problems with the heart’s valves or walls.
- Color Doppler. Different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow to simplify the interpretation of Doppler images.
Need more information?
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about prenatal testing.
Maternal Fetal Medicine
Located at PinnacleHealth Alex Grass Medical Sciences Building
100 South 2nd Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
UPMC Pinnacle Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists
20 North Street
Hanover, PA 17331