Skip to Content (Press Enter)
Children's Hospital Foundation Heart Center

Fetal cardiology: Diagnosing and caring for congenital heart diseases 

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, occurring in about 1 in 100 live births.

Fortunately, using advanced imaging to make an early and accurate diagnosis, our fetal cardiology team can care for expecting mothers with high-risk pregnancies and their babies. Early detection enables the family and our fetal cardiology team to take necessary precautions and develop a care plan for delivery and care of the newborn. By coordinating care, we can help create a better outcome for babies and families.

Why choose CHoR for fetal heart care?

Our fetal cardiology team includes one of the nation’s few pediatric cardiologists with advanced training to perform and interpret fetal cardiac ultrasounds. Our fetal cardiologist has a unique combination of skills in pediatrics, pediatric cardiology and advanced fetal imaging. This expertise ensures highly professional and comprehensive cardiac care for babies with heart defects and many other congenital abnormalities.

Our multidisciplinary team includes specialists from cardiology, perinatal medicine, neonatology, critical care medicine, genetics and cardiothoracic surgery. When a family learns that their unborn baby might have a heart condition, our team works together to care for them through every stage – from diagnosis to delivery, and surgery when necessary.

Our heart care specialists provide comprehensive and ongoing follow-up care, helping patients thrive into adulthood.

How we diagnose fetal heart conditions

Each year in Virginia, 800 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. Nearly 400 of these infants require medical care that might include open-heart surgery soon after birth.

Our heart care experts use advanced tests to diagnose your baby’s potential heart condition as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can help us take the right prenatal cardiac interventions, as well as help your family and medical team plan for delivery and develop a newborn care plan. These noninvasive tests pose no health risks to you or your baby.

Fetal echocardiogram: Using state-of-the-art imaging through fetal echocardiogram – a special type of ultrasound that takes pictures of your baby’s heart – our fetal cardiologist conducts a comprehensive assessment of your baby’s health in utero.

Ideally, we perform a fetal echocardiogram between 18 and 22 weeks of gestation. We’ll follow your baby closely through the remainder of your pregnancy and delivery.

Fetal MRI: A fetal MRI is performed as a complement to, rather than as a replacement for, ultrasound studies performed in the OBGYN’s or maternal-fetal medicine provider’s office and is tailored to address the specific questions and concerns of the referring provider. 

The fetal MRI procedure uses “ultra-fast” MRI sequences to capture images of the fetus and is safe for you and your baby.

What risk factors are associated with congenital heart diseases?

An expecting mother might be referred for a fetal echocardiogram if they or the baby are at high risk.

Maternal risk factors

  • Certain medications taken during pregnancy
  • Diabetes and other medical conditions, including lupus
  • Exposure to certain viral infections
  • Assistance with fertility

Fetal risk factors

  • Suspected heart or rhythm abnormality on ultrasound
  • Abnormal prenatal screening
  • Non-cardiac abnormalities
  • Suboptimal imaging of the heart
  • Monochorionic twins (shared placenta)

Family history risk factors

Your personal navigator during pregnancy, delivery and beyond

We know navigating a congenital heart disease diagnosis can be stressful on mom and the entire family. Our team works closely with you to ensure ease of access for appointments and understanding of next steps along the way.

Contact our fetal heart program coordinator to learn more about our fetal cardiology program:

Wanda Shires, (804) 628-6173

Related videos

Sonny's story
 
Joanna Rosenthal
Joanna Rosenthal MD Cardiology, Fetal cardiology Read more

Locations

View all locations

Request an appointment