This test uses echocardiography to show the anatomy of an unborn baby's heart in much greater detail than obtained during routine obstetrical screening ultrasound studies. Fetal echocardiography is the practice of utilizing ultrasound to produce high-quality images that detail the structure and function of the heart in the unborn child. The examination is performed by a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer in conjunction with a pediatric cardiologist, who have specialized training in fetal echocardiography. The mother and fetus are examined in a comfortable environment with plenty of room for other family members, if desired. Once complete, a full explanation of the results (including diagrams) is given and the parents have an opportunity to ask questions.
The test is best performed between 18 and 20 weeks gestation to allow optimal imaging to be achieved, but may be performed at any later time. As the fetus is often "on the move" and detailed evaluation is necessary it will sometimes be time consuming and the mother should expect that the test could take as long as 45 minutes. The bed is quite comfortable, however, and can be adjusted to make the mother comfortable. The scan itself evaluates the entire fetal heart including all 4 heart valves and chambers as well at the great vessels that arise from the heart. The major vessels that lead to the heart are also assessed. The growth of the heart chambers and health of the heart muscles is evaluated, as is the heart rate and rhythm.
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