Fetal echocardiography uses the common ultrasound principle and it has been shown without any doubt that this is very safe during pregnancy.
Pre-natal diagnosis of birth defects of the heart along with counseling offers a much wider options to the expectant family. Pre-natal diagnosis improves the post-natal outcomes of infants with critical but correctable heart defects by in-utero transport to a pediatric cardiac facility. Certain forms of heart defects (especially heart beat problems) can be offered in utero treatment with excellent outcomes to the fetus. For very complex heart problems which require multiple palliative heart surgeries with overall sub-optimal outcomes, the option of termination of pregnancy maybe considered if the diagnosis is made early in pregnancy (< 20 weeks).
Considering the very high demand for paediatric and fetal echocardiography services in Malappuram district, we are initiating a fetal echocardiography services at Moulana Hospital. Dr. Balu Vaidyanathan, Professor, Pediatric cardiology at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi will be conducting a twice monthly consultation services for fetal echocardiography at Moulana Hospital. Besides prenatal diagnosis, this service shall also provide a detailed counselling to the families about the treatment options for the baby diagnosed with the heart defect. Consultations shall be done by prior appointment.
Fetal echocardiography is a highly specialized form of prenatal scan where a detailed evaluation of the heart is carried out. This enables prenatal diagnosis of various forms of birth defects of the heart (congenital heart defects) and heart beat disorders (rhythm problems) in the fetus.
With advances in ultrasound, accurate diagnosis of major cardiac defects can be done as early as 12-14 weeks of gestation. The ideal timing of fetal heart scan would be around 18 – 20 weeks.
A basic heart scan should be compulsorily done as a part of every single obstetric scan. However, certain pregnancies are considered to be high-risk and in such cases a detailed fetal echocardiography (specialized heart scan) should be advised. Such high risk pregnancies should be referred for a detailed heart scan at around 18-20 weeks gestation.