Foetal Echo

What is Foetal Echocardiography?

Foetal echocardiography is similar to an ultrasound. It is done to see the structure and function of unborn child’s heart. It is usually done in the second trimester, between 18 to 24 weeks.

A small probe called a transducer is placed on the mother’s abdomen which sends ultrasonic waves through the mother and baby’s skin to the baby’s heart tissues and when the waves bounce off the heart structures, they are picked by the transducer which sends them to a computer. The computer converts the echoes into an image of the heart walls and valves. The whole procedure takes from 30 minutes to two hours to perform.

When is a foetal echocardiogram necessary?

A foetal echocardiogram is not necessary for all the pregnant women. It is recommended by the doctor if:

  • A sibling was born with a congenital heart defect
  • A family history of congenital heart disease.
  • A chromosomal or genetic abnormality discovered in the foetus.
  • Mother is abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Mother has had rubella during pregnancy.
  • Mother has diabetes, lupus, phenylketonuria, or connective tissue disease.
  • A routine prenatal ultrasound has discovered possible heart abnormalities.

How is a foetal echocardiogram performed?

A paediatric cardiologist performs it with the use of a probe which is placed over the mother’s abdomen to visualise the foetal heart.

The technique used to obtain detailed information about the fetal heart includes the following:

2-D echocardiography: It is used to see the actual structures and motions of the heart.

Doppler echocardiography: It is used to measure the speed of blood flow through the heart’s chambers and valves.

It can be performed in two ways, through abdomen called abdominal echocardiography or through the vagina called transvaginal echocardiography.

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