Posted on : October 2, 2020 by Clinic One on Echocardiography
What is Fetal Echocardiography?
A fetal echocardiogram is a detailed ultrasound of the baby’s heart performed before birth.
A small camera known as a transducer is put on the abdomen of the pregnant woman, and the ultrasonic sound waves are sent out.
The ultrasound waves basically bounce off the organs of the baby, including the heart, and the waves are sent back to the camera which then creates a moving picture for the doctor to evaluate the various parts of the heart.
Even the sound waves can monitor blood flow through the heart of the infant. This then helps the doctor to determine the fetal heart structure and the function. It is done between the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, between weeks 18 – 24.
When is Fetal Echocardiography used?
All pregnant women do not need a fetal echocardiogram. For most pregnant women, the development of all four chambers of their infant’s heart is seen by a simple ultrasound.
But, still, your Gynaecologist may recommend this procedure if the last test weren’t conclusive or if the previous test detected an abnormal heartbeat in the fetus.
The test is also required if:
- Your unborn child is at risk of heart abnormalities or other health conditions.
- Your family has a history of heart disease.
- You have previously given birth to a child with a heart condition.
- You have consumed drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy period.
- You have taken such medicine or have been exposed to medicine that may cause heart defects, such as epilepsy or prescription acne medicines.
- You have certain medical conditions like rubella, type 1 diabetes, lupus, or phenylketonuria.
This is test is performed by some OB-GYNs but usually, the test is done by an experienced ultrasound technician or ultrasonographer.
And, lastly, the cardiologist who specializes in pediatric medicine reviews the results.
What happens during the test?
The test is very much similar to a routine pregnancy ultrasound. If the test is performed through your abdomen it is known as abdominal echocardiography and if the test is performed through your vagina it is known as transvaginal echocardiography.
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During abdominal echocardiography, the ultrasound technician/ Radiologist first asks you to lie down and show your belly. Then a special lubricating jelly is applied to your skin.
The jelly is sued for preventing friction so that the technician can move an ultrasonic transducer over the skin freely, that sends and receives sound waves. The jelly also helps in transmitting the waves of the sound.
The transducer sends out waves of high frequency through your body. The waves echo strike a dense target, much like the heart of your unborn child. Then those echos are reflected back into a computer. The human ear cannot hear the sound waves as they are too high-pitched.
The technician then moves the device all-around your belly to receive images of various parts of your baby’s heart.
After the procedure is done, the jelly is cleaned off your abdomen and then you are free to return to your basic activities.
During transvaginal echocardiography, you need to undress from the waist down and lie on an exam table.
A small probe is inserted into your vagina by the technician and the probe uses sound waves which creates an image of your baby’s heart.
This test is usually done during the early stages of the pregnancy which provides a very clear picture of the fetal heart.
Is there any risk of Fetal Echocardiography?
There is no certain risk of fetal echocardiography as it uses ultrasound technology and no radiation which is safe for all pregnant women.
Why is this Fetal Echocardiography important?
Abnormal fetal echocardiography findings can be uncertain or require that you get further testing to find out what’s wrong.
Issues are often ruled out and no further testings are done. When a disease is diagnosed by your doctor, you can control your pregnancy better, and prepare for delivery.
The results from the test will be very useful as it will help you and your doctor to prepare for the treatments your baby will need after delivery, like correctional surgery.
Often, you can get guidance and counseling to help you make better choices for the rest of your pregnancy.
During your follow up generally normal results means your doctor found no cardiac abnormality in your baby.
But, if some issues are found such as heart defect, rhythm abnormality, or other health conditions then you may need more medical tests, such as a fetal MRI scan or other high-level ultrasound.
The doctors can refer to you as a resource or specialist who can treat your unborn child condition well.
Echocardiography may be done more than once or additional testing may be done if your doctor finds some other issues.
Also, your doctor cannot diagnose every condition such as a hole in the heart with your results. So, your doctor will explain in detail about what they can and cannot diagnose with the help of the test results.