Making fetal echocardiogram technology accessible in locations across Kentucky helps spot heart defects early, improving chances that babies will grow to be healthy adults.
Eight years ago, only about a third of babies who had heart surgery at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville were diagnosed before birth.
Among those children were babies who had very serious, complex heart defects that possibly could have been found on prenatal ultrasound. We set out to improve the chances that babies with complex heart disorders in our region are identified during pregnancy, so when it’s arrival time, everyone is prepared.
Research studies show that when a heart issue is discovered during pregnancy, the babies do better after birth. We also know that families are much better prepared if they know about their baby’s heart condition during pregnancy. Getting the news suddenly after birth is very stressful on a family.
Babies born in Kentucky often need to be transferred to Louisville for heart treatment. That can mean mother and baby are separated until mom is discharged from the hospital.
Now, we are able to identify babies with heart conditions much earlier, allowing the family to make plans for a delivery with a team of specialists standing by to ensure the best possible outcome.
Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine
The specialists at Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine work closely with Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, and the neonatal intensive care units at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Hospital.
Three approaches to identifying babies with heart issues
- Education and training.We work with obstetric providers and sonographers to help them identify possible heart defects sooner. Sonographers and obstetricians get training in their offices and can spend time with us in the echocardiography lab at Norton Children’s Hospital.
- Comprehensive testing in Louisville.Fetal echocardiograms are available in downtown Louisville at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, as well as at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews. With new, state-of-the-art equipment, we’ve been able to increase the number of appointments. The number of women coming in for fetal echocardiograms has steadily increased over the past several years.
- Outreach across the region.We have been working with providers in communities across Kentucky to offer fetal echocardiograms closer to home for many. We currently perform fetal echocardiograms at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, Kentucky; Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Paducah, Kentucky; Owensboro Health Regional Hospital in Owensboro, Kentucky; and Saint Joseph East in Lexington, Kentucky.
We have been offering these services for seven years and have performed hundreds of fetal echocardiograms. With secure telemedicine links, images are sent to Norton Children’s Hospital, where the specialty pediatric cardiologists with the University of Louisville can evaluate the tests.
Brian J. Holland, M.D. is a pediatric cardiologist with Norton Children’s Heart Institute and UofL Physicians – Pediatric Cardiology.