Fetal Echocardiogram

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Nearly one in 100 children has some type of congenital (present at birth) heart defect. Detecting a congenital heart defect early — before your baby is born — leads to a better outcome for your child’s health.

At Norton Children’s, we use a fetal echocardiogram, commonly referred to as a fetal echo, to diagnose congenital heart defects prior to birth. This noninvasive tool uses ultrasound waves to evaluate an unborn baby’s heart. It is completely safe for both mother and baby. Health care providers usually perform a fetal echocardiogram during the second or third trimester.

Norton Children’s offers fetal echos at six locations in Louisville, Central and Western Kentucky. At Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Louisville, our fetal echo sonographers are on-site to perform the test. At our four other locations, data from the test is immediately transmitted to Louisville, where our board-certified pediatric cardiologists interpret it.

A key advantage of the fetal cardiology program is that you can find out in advance if your baby will need specialized care and plan your delivery at Norton Hospital, where our Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with UofL School of Medicine, team is readily available to give you newborn baby the care needed.

Fetal echo - Seal of echocardiography accreditation by IAC

How a Fetal Echo Is Used

Pregnant women are most often referred to the fetal cardiology program by their obstetricians when a suspected heart abnormality is seen on a routine ultrasound done during pregnancy, an inability to see the heart on the routine ultrasound done during pregnancy, or when certain risk factors are present.

These risk factors include:

  • Abnormal heart rate or rhythm
  • An issue with the baby’s other organs, such as the brain or kidneys
  • Known or suspected chromosome abnormality
  • Excess fluid in the baby’s neck, skin or other organs
  • An issue with the umbilical cord or placenta
  • Twins who share a placenta

A fetal echo can detect:

  • Blood flow through the heart
  • Structures in the baby’s heart

Our Fetal Echocardiographers

Melodi Cheatham, registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer

Dana Thompson, registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer

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