Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of mortality in the first year of life in children. The rate of Congenital Heart disease varies from 4/1000 to 10/1000 live births. In different studies, it is observed that 3/1000 live births are in severe conditions & needs expert cardiac care. This fact emphasizes the importance of diagnosing CHD early in life. Now it is possible to detect CHD early in Fetal Life by Fetal Echocardiography.
What is Fetal Echocardiography?
Fetal Echocardiography is an ultrasound test done during pregnancy to check the status of the heart of the unborn baby. In Echocardiography heart’s structure & function is evaluated. This is done when a woman is about 18 to 24 weeks pregnant.
Fetal Echocardiography is a safe, non-invasive tool. Fetal Echocardiogram is performed by specially trained sonographer & the images are interpreted by a pediatric cardiologist. Due to fetal echocardiography, the problem is detected at early stage. Due to fetal echocardiography, the incidence of CHD can be reduced. It can reduce the incidence of CHD by leading therapeutic abortion for complex heart disease. By detecting CHD helps to detect associated non-cardiac malformations & chromosomal anomalies.
CHD may be missed at birth. Because some babies with a congenital heart defect are sent home undiagnosed. 25% of the neonates with complex CHD are discharged from the hospital after delivery undiagnosed. Some of those who come for treatment have high perioperative mortality& morbidity due to late referral.
Hence detection of CHD is very important so that significant improvement can be done after birth.
In the current situation, the field of fetal cardiology is considered promising & treatment of CHD has become standard in India.
Some Questions related to Fetal Echocardiography
1) Is Fetal echo necessary in every pregnancy?
A:-Echocardiography gives information about whether the fetal heart. It’s not necessary for all women to have a fetal echocardiogram during pregnancy.
2) Why does it?
A:-To detect CHD at an early stage it is necessary to perform echocardiography. So that if CHD detected, treatments can be performed. Many heart defects are completely curable and parents get the time to prepare for the problems. Now survival rates for CHD kids have increased by 90%.
- When to do it?
A:-Echo can be done when a woman is about 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Who should go undergo fetal echo?
A:- 1. Elderly mothers >35 years.
- Having the previous child with heart disease.
- Mothers getting the viral fever, rash, joint pain in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
- Routine ultrasound showing other malfunctions of the fetus.
- Routine ultrasound showing very high very slow heart rates in the fetus.
- Unexplained repeated abortions
- Unexplained early child deaths
- Family having a history of heart disease.
- Which doctors perform fetal echo?
A:-Usually pediatric Cardiologist or fetal medicine specialists perform fetal echo. Then a pediatric cardiologist explains you about the type of heart problems, the treatment for it, & treats the child after delivery.
- Are there any side effects of fetal echo?
A:-No, it is painless without any side effects on baby and mother.
- Benefits of fetal echo?
A: – 1. It allows parents to understand the heart problems in the unborn baby and prepares them psychologically at the time of delivery.
- In extremely complicated cases termination of pregnancy is advised.