Fetal Diagnosis and Management

If you are pregnant and your doctor spots something of concern in an ultrasound, the fetal program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is the place to come.

We can diagnose many congenital heart conditions via ultrasound. We will also work closely with you and your family to determine what treatment your baby may need after delivery.

How We Diagnose Fetal Heart Conditions

We use fetal echocardiography (echo) to evaluate a baby’s heart while still in the womb. This ultrasound imaging technology uses sound waves to produce a detailed image of your baby's heart.

A fetal echo shows us more than a regular pregnancy ultrasound, including:

  • How your blood flows through your baby’s heart
  • Your baby’s heart rhythm
  • The structures of your baby's heart

Who Should Get a Fetal Echocardiogram?

Your OB/GYN might refer you to us if your regular pregnancy ultrasound shows a potential abnormality with your baby’s heart. We also recommend the test for these situations:

  • Family history of congenital heart disease
  • Sibling born with a congenital heart defect
  • Discovery of a chromosomal or genetic abnormality
  • Drug or alcohol abuse by the mother during pregnancy
  • Mother who has diabetes, phenylketonuria or a connective tissue disease such as lupus

Why Choose Us for Fetal Diagnosis and Management?

Being told you need further testing to evaluate your baby’s heart can feel overwhelming. We routinely work with families to find answers and create treatment plans for after a baby’s birth. We offer:

  • Experienced fetal imaging specialists: Our fetal echo techs are specially trained to provide an accurate diagnosis. We can detect most congenital heart defects and structural abnormalities, including hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).
  • Seamless care before and after the birth: If your baby is diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, it’s important to create a care plan for delivery and immediately after delivery. We coordinate among departments, so that families don’t have to worry. As soon as you deliver your baby, our pediatric cardiac team will evaluate your baby’s health and provide needed care. It doesn’t end there. Your family becomes part of ours, because we can treat infants through adults for congenital heart disease.
  • NICU nurse navigator: In addition to advanced practice pediatric cardiology nurses, our NICU has a fetal nurse navigator to help families. A nurse navigator guides families from testing through treatment. Your navigator will answer your questions and help prepare your family. You can tour the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) and meet some of the team who will treat your child. Nurse navigators also help you secure insurance approvals before delivery.

What to Expect When You Come for Fetal Diagnosis

We can diagnose many congenital heart malformations using a fetal echo. Some helpful information for expectant parents:

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare for a fetal echo. It is a noninvasive test.
  • A fetal echo takes about 45 minutes to complete. You will learn the results immediately in an in-person consultation with the echo specialist.
  • We offer the echo test as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy, but more typically, we perform it between 18 and 20 weeks. Further testing may be required depending on the initial results.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or learn about our award-winning pediatric heart team, call 954-265-3437.