A fetal echocardiogram is performed by a pediatric cardiologist or a maternal fetal specialist (also called a perinatologist) who is specially trained. The test is done in a private room while the woman is lying in a comfortable bed. It is painless and takes from 20 to 45 minutes. It is fine for a family member to stay in the room during the test. Gel is applied to the abdomen and the ultrasound transducer (like a microphone) glides over the gel on the abdomen to create the image. During the test the transducer probe will be moved around to obtain images of different locations and structures of the fetal heart. Techniques sometimes used to obtain detailed information about the fetal heart include the following:
This technique is used to “see” the actual structures and motion of the heart structures. A 2-D echo view appears cone-shaped on the monitor, and the real-time motion of the heart’s structures can be observed. This enables the physician to see the various heart structures at work and evaluate them.
This Doppler technique is used to measure and assess the flow of blood through the heart’s chambers and valves. The amount of blood pumped out with each beat is an indication of the heart’s functioning. Also, Doppler can detect abnormal blood flow within the heart, which can indicate such problems as a communication between chambers of the heart, a problem with one or more of the heart’s four valves, or a problem with the heart’s walls.
Color Doppler is an enhanced form of Doppler echocardiography. With color Doppler, different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow. This simplifies the interpretation of the Doppler images.