The Sibley Heart Center Cardiology Fetal Cardiology program provides complete consultative services for patients with suspected or known heart problems in their unborn child. The heart’s structure and function are best seen between 18 to 22 weeks gestation using transabdominal ultrasound. Pediatric cardiologists, subspecializing in fetal cardiology, can provide in-office consultation to perinatologists throughout the Southeast. Additionally, referral to Sibley Heart Center Cardiology provides access to preoperative fetal imaging and surgical consultation at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center.
Information for expectant parents
Details for referring physicians and office staff
Conditions that can be identified include:
- Cardiac structure that is not normal (e.g., CHD)
- Heartbeats that are not normal
- Problems with cardiac function
If we identify a fetal heart defect before the baby is born, we can alert others who are going to be involved with the birth and care of the mother and baby. This might include neonatologists, the newborn staff, a heart surgeon, the Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care team and others. This way, when the baby is born, everyone—including the parents—is aware of the heart defect and prepared to care for the baby. If a serious heart defect is diagnosed from the fetal echo, other tests, studies or therapies may be needed. Even though the mother was only scheduled for a fetal echo, she may be seen by other experts who can help her and the baby.
A pregnant woman may need to see a pediatric cardiology team if:
- During regular visits with her doctor, an ultrasound or anatomy scan shows something that is not normal with the fetus
- There is a family history of heart problems in a first-degree relative (parents or siblings)
- An abnormal heartbeat is heard from the womb
- A genetic or chromosomal abnormality exists in the fetus
- Another major organ system (kidneys, lungs, etc.) of the fetus has problems
- The mother has medical conditions, such as diabetes, phenylketonuria (PKU) or a connective tissue disease such as lupus
- The mother has been exposed to viral infections, certain medicines, drugs or alcohol
Additional studies may be performed to confirm abnormalities, monitor the progression of the heart problem, follow fetal growth and monitor fetal well-being.