Fetal echocardiography is a diagnostic imaging test that uses ultrasound technology to evaluate fetal heart function. It is performed between 16-28 weeks of gestation and can detect congenital defects of the fetal heart. These defects may cause problems in the fetus’ circulation and blood flow. Read and find out about the test and how exactly it is performed.

What is Fetal Echocardiology?

The term “echocardiology” refers to the study of fetal cardiac anatomy and physiology using ultrasound. The goal of fetal echocardiography is to diagnose and treat potential birth defects of the heart. In some cases, it alone may not determine if the baby will have any issues. However, if a problem is detected, additional tests such as amniocentesis may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

It is commonly performed at 20-24 weeks gestation. Fetal echocardiography at 24 weeks is common, although earlier testing may be considered if there is concern about a specific defect.

Why is Fetal Echocardiology Performed?

If a fetus develops a structural abnormality of the heart, early detection and treatment can improve outcomes. Early intervention can prevent complications that arise later in pregnancy and reduce risks associated with premature labor and delivery.

The test should be performed if a mother is over 35 years old, has had two previous children affected with congenital heart disease, or if a family history suggests that the fetus might have a heart defect.

How does Fetal Echocardiology Work?

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the embryo forms from approximately 2 days post conception until around 8 weeks gestation. The developing fetus is composed of three primary parts; head, trunk, and limbs. Each organ system begins as a separate structure called a vesicle.

Using high-frequency sound waves, the doctor views these structures in fetal echocardiography first trimester through the abdomen and uterus. By measuring the size and shape of each vesicle, the doctor can view how well they develop. If a problem is discovered, further testing may be necessary to determine whether the condition is genetic or caused by environmental factors or both.

Related Article: Why Is Fetal Echocardiography Conducted?

When will you be Tested?

Fetal echocardiography is generally scheduled for patients who meet certain criteria, including being older than 35 years of age, having had two prior affected pregnancies, or having an increased risk of an abnormal heart due to family history.

There are several types of screening tests that can be done to determine your eligibility. An initial consultation is recommended and includes a detailed review of your medical history and physical exam. Once testing is completed, a report will be provided outlining your results and recommendations.

What can be found out from the Scan Results?

Your results will consist of information regarding the following:

  • How your baby’s heartbeat sounds.
  • The location of your baby’s body parts.

A fetal echocardiography scan may reveal abnormalities such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, coarctation of the aorta, truncus arteriosus, and others.

It is important to carry out this type of scan from a top clinic, so as to be assured of the authenticity of the results.