Fetal Echocardiography Scan: A Non-Invasive Way to Detect Heart Issues in Unborn

What is an Echocardiography Scan?

A Fetal Echocardiography Scan is an intra-operative ultrasound examination that allows doctors to examine an unborn child’s heart's structure and function. This test is traditionally done during the second trimester (between 18 and 24 weeks). 
In this examination, sound waves create a picture of the heart’s interior. It provides detailed information on the formation and functions of the heart. Additionally, it helps doctors to observe blood flow and detect any abnormalities in the baby’s heartbeat. 

Risk Factors Associated With Fetal Echocardiography

A fetal echocardiography scan is a safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus. Since it utilizes ultrasound technology, no known risks are associated with it. 
It is always essential to discuss with your doctor the concerns related to the test and even weigh the potential benefits and risks. 

Preparing For Echocardiography Scan

No special preparation is required for this test. Unlike other prenatal ultrasounds, this test does not involve a complete bladder. You may be asked to wear a gown. Ensure to have a light meal before the test since you have to lie down for around 30 minutes to 2 hours.  

What To Expect From This Scan?

A fetal echocardiography scan is similar to a routine pregnancy ultrasound. This safe and painless procedure is performed in the second trimester, between 18 to 24 weeks. During the test, the mother lies on an exam table and a gel will be applied to her abdomen. The sonographer will then use a transducer to produce and record visuals of the fetus’ heart. The test takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to complete. With this test, the doctor will see the structure and function of the unborn child’s heart and detect any abnormalities in the baby’s blood flow or heartbeat. 

Possible Results Echocardiography

After the fetal echocardiography scan, you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor. He will discuss the results of the scan and answer your questions. A normal result means no heart abnormality was found. 
However, if any issue such as a heart defect, rhythm abnormality, or other problem is detected, further tests may be required, such as a fetal MRI scan or other high-level ultrasounds.

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1. Why is a fetal echocardiography scan done?

Not all pregnant women require this scan. A regular ultrasound is enough to show the development of the baby’s heart. However, your doctor may recommend the test if previous test results are inconclusive or if an abnormal heartbeat is detected in the fetus. Other reasons that may require the test are the risk of heart disease in the unborn child, family history, the mother having other health conditions like type 1 diabetes, lupus, and many more.

2. Should I be worried about fetal echocardiography?

If you have a scheduled echo scan, it is essential to not be overly anxious about it. The chances are high that the results will be normal. Even if a defect is found, it is possible that the problem can be treated either before or after birth.

3. What abnormalities can be found in echocardiography?

Echocardiography can detect several heart abnormalities in an unborn child. It includes congenital heart defects (missing or malformed valve or abnormal connections), blood flow abnormalities, heart rhythm abnormalities, issues with a great vessel, problems with the heart’s muscle or size, and many more.

4. What is the difference between a heart scan and an echocardiography?

Even though the names sound similar, both electrocardiography and echocardiography are different. While electrocardiography records the electrical activity of the heart, echocardiography uses sound waves to create a moving image of an unborn’s heart. Doctors use electrocardiography to diagnose heart conditions like arrhythmias or heart attacks. On the other hand, echocardiography is used to see the heart’s structure and functioning. It also detects any abnormalities like congenital heart diseases, blood flow, or heart rhythm abnormalities.

5. What should I expect after the test?

After the test, you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor who will explain the results of the scan and answer any questions you may have.

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