Loma Linda University Children’s Health offers state-of-the-art fetal cardiology services. Our expert team will use the latest technological advances to ensure your baby’s heart is receiving top-notch care, both before and after delivery. 

Why Choose Us for Fetal Cardiology

  • Specialized service: We provide a highly detailed evaluation of the baby’s heart performed by our team of cardiac experts. 
  • Cardiac risk intervention: We offer fetal echocardiograms to all patients with fetal, maternal or familial risk factors for fetal heart abnormalities. 
  • Comprehensive care: Our patients have access to a full spectrum of care: fetal cardiac medicine, maternal fetal medicine (MFM), prenatal counseling, genetic counseling, NICU consultation and cardiac surgery consultation prior to birth.  
  • Keeping moms and babies together: This is one of the few pediatric cardiology centers in Southern California where mother and baby remain in the same facility after birth. Unlike most freestanding children’s hospitals, we provide maternal fetal medicine, labor and delivery, infant heart surgery and neonatal intensive care under the same roof.  

What is a Fetal Echocardiogram?

A fetal echocardiogram, sometimes called a fetal echo, tests the structure and function of the fetal heart. It can detect heart abnormalities before birth, allowing for faster and more efficient medical intervention. Like other prenatal exams, it uses safe ultrasound technology and takes one to two hours to complete. The test is performed by a sonographer specially trained in fetal cardiology and reviewed by a pediatric cardiologist. If the position of the fetus does not allow for a clear picture, additional visits may be necessary. 

What Happens if a Problem is Detected

If any heart problems are found on the fetal echocardiogram, you will be referred to the fetal cardiac team. Your obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor are also notified and will attempt to deliver the baby as close to the due date as possible. Early delivery is generally not recommended. 

How Prenatal Diagnosis Helps Your Baby 

Having a prenatal diagnosis helps parents plan for delivery and improves a baby’s chance of survival if there is a life threatening heart defect. It also allows a family to meet with the neonatal intensive care (NICU) team and heart surgeons before delivery and allows for mother and baby to be at the same hospital for delivery, neonatal care and heart surgery.

Who Should Have a Fetal Echocardiogram? 

Call us to make a fetal cardiology appointment if you meet any of the following criteria. 

Patients with fetal risk factors

  • Suspected heart abnormality on a routine ultrasound scan of the fetus
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate or arrhythmia 
  • Known or suspected genetic abnormality in the fetus  
  • Increased nuchal translucency thickness at first trimester screen 
  • Non-cardiac fetal structural abnormalities
  • Fetal fluid accumulation
  • Twin pregnancy

Patients with maternal or familial risk factors

  • Maternal diabetes, lupus or other systemic disease
  • First-trimester medications known to cause birth defects
  • Assisted reproduction (IVF, surrogacy)
  • Family history of congenital heart disease
  • Maternal infections known to affect a fetus
  • Exposure to drugs/medications that increase the risk of heart defects
  • Oligohydramnios (too little amniotic fluid), polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid)
  • Family history of syndromes or genetic conditions that may affect heart development

Early Echocardiograms are Key

A fetal echocardiogram is usually performed between 18-22 weeks gestation, although it may be performed as early as 13 weeks. When any of the risk factors here are present, it is critical to request a fetal echocardiogram as early as possible. Patients and referring physicians are encouraged to contact us to make an appointment or request more information.

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