Fetal Echocardiogram

Fetal echo - Seal of echocardiography accreditation by IAC

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.

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

Why Choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

No other congenital heart surgery program in Kentucky, Ohio or Southern Indiana is rated higher by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons than the Norton Children’s Heart Institute Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program.

  • Norton Children’s Hospital has been a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • Our board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric cardiovascular surgeons are leaders in the field as clinicians and researchers.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute successfully performs more than 17,500 procedures a year.
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons rated Norton Children’s Heart Institute among the best in the region after studying years of our patients’ outcomes and our ability to treat a range of pediatric heart conditions, including the most severe.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has satellite outpatient offices in Ashland, Bowling Green, Campbellsville, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, London, Madisonville, Murray, Owensboro, Paducah and Shepherdsville in Kentucky; as well as Corydon, Jasper, Madison and Scottsburg in Indiana; 28 tele-echocardiography locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana; and six fetal echocardiography locations across Kentucky.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has awarded the cardiothoracic surgeons at Norton Children’s Hospital with subspecialty certification in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) is the largest dedicated CICU in Kentucky, equipped with 17 private rooms and the newest technology available for heart care.
  • Our multidisciplinary approach to pediatric heart surgery brings together our specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, anesthesiology, cardiac critical care and other areas to create a complete care plan tailored for your child.
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Norton Children’s Heart Institute

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