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The Fetal Cardiology Program at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center provides complete consultation services for expectant mothers whose unborn children have suspected or known heart problems.

Led by Erik Michelfelder, MD, a Pediatric Cardiologist at Children’s, the Fetal Cardiology Program is dedicated to providing exemplary care to the fetus diagnosed with structural or functional heart disease, as well as supporting the fetus and expectant family in a compassionate, comprehensive manner.

In 2020, our team performed more than 2,100 fetal cardiac evaluations and more than 36,000 transthoracic echocardiograms, making our program one of the largest fetal cardiology programs in the country. With 12 offices across Georgia, we provide convenient access to families needing fetal cardiac care throughout the state. We have 19 fetal cardiologists on staff with an average of more than 14 years of experience in fetal cardiology. Our extensive experience in cardiac imaging allows each family to receive a comprehensive, specialized fetal cardiac evaluation, including a detailed plan and recommendations for future care to both the referring physician and family.

What can I expect from the Children’s Fetal Cardiology Program?

Once diagnosed, fetal heart problems are managed through an interdisciplinary approach within the Fetal Cardiology Program. Parents consult with cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiac interventionists as indicated for specific heart conditions. We collaborate closely with local and regional obstetricians, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, neonatologists and delivery centers to help make sure care planning and management of the fetus with heart disease is provided at the highest level. We also offer prenatal genetic counseling, social work support and interaction with specialized cardiac nurses.

Our team provides:

  • Family-centered care.
  • Resources for counseling and educating families.
  • Detailed information to help families understand the diagnosis.
  • Assistance in birth planning and post-natal management of the newborn.

Conditions we treat include:

To learn more about our Fetal Cardiology Program, contact Kendall Haney, Clinical Nurse Coordinator, at 404-785-8745.

2017-2020 Fetal Echocardiogram Volumes

You may be referred to a fetal cardiologist for a fetal echocardiogram if:

  • An ultrasound or anatomy scan shows a possible heart defect or problem in the baby.
  • The mother, father or siblings of the baby have a history of heart problems.
  • An abnormal or irregular heartbeat is heard in the baby.
  • A genetic or chromosomal abnormality is identified in the baby.
  • Abnormalities in the baby's other major organ systems, such as the brain, kidneys or lungs, are identified by ultrasound.
  • The mother has a medical condition, such as diabetes or phenylketonuria (PKU), or a connective tissue disease, such as lupus or Sjogren's syndrome that can affect the baby's heart.
  • The mother has been exposed to viruses, or certain medicines or drugs that can affect development of the baby's heart.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fetal Cardiology

Our fetal cardiology team has developed answers to common questions you may have about congenital heart defects.

A fetal echocardiogram (echo) is an ultrasound similar to the one an expectant mother will get at her obstetrician's office. A fetal echo uses sound waves to show your baby's heart in detail. The heart's structure is best seen between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. A fetal echo takes approximately 40 to 60 minutes to complete, depending on the complexity of your baby's heart problem.

A fetal echo will:

  • Check your baby’s heart structure, rhythm and function.
  • Help the medical provider identify and monitor a heart problem.
  • Check to make sure your baby is growing and developing well.

If testing shows your baby has a heart defect, we will work with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist, a high-risk obstetrician, to develop a follow-up schedule to monitor your baby. We will help you understand your baby's condition and needs so that you can make informed decisions for your family and baby.

If your baby's heart condition requires surgery after delivery, we can help prepare you ahead of time by connecting you with a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and providing helpful resources.

Learning that your baby has a heart defect can be scary and difficult to comprehend. We have collaborated with other institutions and the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association to create a guided questions tool so that you know the right questions to ask your physician about your baby.

Our team will work closely with your obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist to determine the best delivery plan for your baby. If a certain hospital location or mode of delivery is indicated, we will work with your family to help this process go as smoothly as possible. Based on your prenatal imaging, our fetal cardiologists will make recommendations regarding the timing of cardiology evaluation and care of the baby's heart condition after delivery. This recommendation is communicated to your obstetrician, specialist and delivery center.

If your baby requires heart surgery, we have the capability to care for him in the Children's Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). We have one of the largest dedicated CICUs in the country with 32 total beds, in addition to 35 beds in our Cardiac Acute Care Unit (CACU). Once your baby is medically stable, he will be moved from the CICU to the CACU, where our specially trained cardiac nurses and cardiology team will provide care. Parents are strongly encouraged to stay overnight in their child's CACU room. During this time, you can provide emotional support to your child while also receiving the training required to safely care for your child at home. If there are times when you can't stay with your child, parents can call the CACU to speak with their child's nurse and get a medical update.

Each patient's discharge needs, such as nutrition, respiratory care, physical therapy and medication therapy, are assessed. A plan for addressing these needs will be created by the attending physician with input from the Children's interdisciplinary team, which includes a registered nurse, social workers, case managers, therapists, dietitians, child life specialists and other caregivers. Prior to discharge, we will make sure you have educational materials, teaching tools and phone numbers to call if you have questions or concerns about your child's health.

Before your child goes home, parents are required to attend the following classes:

  • CPR class
  • Car seat class (if your child is a newborn)
  • Cardiac surgery discharge class

All classes are free to parents and caregivers. We require that at least one parent take each class if your child has had heart surgery. The car seat class is required if your child is a newborn and has never been home. You must bring your child's car seat and base for inspection.

Our Fetal Cardiology Program team, as well as the Children’s Heart Center team of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons who support the program, are dedicated to the health and well-being of children born with a heart defect. 

  • Erik Michelfelder, MDDirector
  • Kendall Haney, BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse Coordinator
  • Laura Lei Castillo, BSN, RN, CPN, Clinical Nurse
  • Joe Kreeger, RDCS, Lead Fetal Sonographer
  • Erin Demo, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor
  • Linda Knight, MSc, Genetic Counselor


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