What is a Fetal Echocardiogram?
A fetal echocardiogram, or echo, is an ultrasound of a baby's heart done while the baby is in the mother's womb. Ultrasound uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart. There is no radiation exposure and no known risk with this type of test.
When is it done?
A fetal echocardiogram may be done any time after the 18th week of the pregnancy. Prior to this time, the baby's heart chambers are too small to take clear pictures. If you will be less than 28 weeks pregnant at the time a fetal echo is to be done, please drink 32 ounces of fluid one hour before your appointment. Do not urinate once you have started to drink the water. If you will be more than 28 weeks pregnant at the time the test is done, you do not need to eat or drink in any special way to prepare for the test.
How is the test performed?
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. The technologist will put some gel over the abdomen. The ultrasound scan head which looks sort of like a microphone, is then moved around to take many different pictures of the baby's heart. During the test, a doctor may come into the room to review the study and take some more pictures. This is standard procedure and does not mean that something is wrong. After the test, parents are fully informed of the results and any questions are answered. A written report is also sent to the referring doctor.
2006: Information reviewed and approved by Laura Bell, RN, MSN, PNP Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Lynda Dettling RN, BSN.
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