Fetal echocardiography involves the use of ultrasound to look at the heart of the baby while he or she is still inside the mother. The test is similar to a regular obstetrical ultrasound except that it is dedicated to looking at the baby's heart. Indications for the test include concern or suspicion of a heart defect (e.g. a family history of congenital heart disease or an abnormality of the heart detected during a routine ultrasound examination), the need to asses the heart function of the fetus and the evaluation of an irregular heart beat in the fetus (fetal arrhythmia). Patients are usually referred by their obstetrician. The test can be reliably performed from 18 weeks gestation onwards. No special precautions or preparations are required prior to a fetal echocardiogram and there are no risks associated with the procedure. The test may take up to 1 hour depending on the cooperation of the baby!
The examinations are performed in the echocardiography laboratory at Rady Children's Hospital and are interpreted by Dr. El-Said or Dr. Fripp. Either Dr. El-Said or Dr. Fripp will meet with the patient during or immediately after the test to discuss the results and answer any questions the patient and partner may have. Dr. Denis Levy also performs fetal echocardiograms for patients at UCSD Medical Center and in the Kaiser health system.
Some patients with fetal arrhythmias will require treatment of the mother with one or more medicines to control the rhythm abnormality. The obstetricians and perinatologists will work closely with our cardiologists to most effectively accomplish this.
To schedule a fetal echocardiogram call the Cardiology Department at (858) 966-5855.