One in every 100 babies is born with congenital heart disease, making it the number one disorder in newborns. Cook Children's fetal echocardiography (fetal ECHO) program specializes in the diagnosis and treatment planning of congenital heart conditions in unborn babies.
When you’re pregnant, one of the most terrifying things you can hear from a doctor is that your baby may have a heart defect. Parents Arden and Paul heard just that when they were pregnant with their daughter, Lake. Learn about their journey and how having a fetal echo helped to save Lake’s life.
This amazing technology allows doctors to see a baby's heart while it's still in the womb. And once your baby is born, our Heart team is here to care for your child from birth to adulthood.
What is a fetal echo?
A fetal ECHO is a safe, noninvasive test. Long before your baby is born, the doctor can see how the heart is developing and if there are serious issues, work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for both you and your baby. If critical medical care is required, a fetal ECHO can help you plan ahead so that your baby can be transported from the delivery room to the Cook Children’s NICU immediately.
After a diagnosis, the cardiology team at the Cook Children’s Heart Center will work closely with you, your obstetrician and your pediatrician to plan your delivery and your baby’s care.
Who gets a fetal echo?
Not all fetuses require a fetal echocardiography but those with a high risk of certain cardiovascular conditions have a need for this test, including:
- A sibling or other family member had a heart defect or heart disease
- A routine pregnancy ultrasound detected an abnormal heart rhythm or possible heart problem in the unborn baby
- The mother has diabetes, lupus or phenylketonuria
- The mother has rubella during pregnancy
- The mother used street drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
- The mother has used high-risk medications that can damage the baby’s developing heart
- An amniocentesis revealed a chromosome disorder
What to expect
During your evaluation you will receive an ultrasound by the technician and a consultation with the pediatric cardiologist.
A fetal echocardiogram is similar to the ultrasound performed by your obstetrician. The difference is, this is a targeted examination of the baby’s heart providing a more detailed image of the cardiac anatomy and a higher level of evaluation. The study normally takes about 2 hours to complete.
If your fetal echo reveals a heart defect in your unborn child, you will receive additional services, including:
- Coordination of your care with you and your baby’s medical team
- Educational information so you can understand your child’s condition and treatment options
- Planning information to help you be as prepared as possible and know what to expect when your baby born
- Consultations with the pediatric cardiology team who will be caring for your child which, depending on your child’s diagnosis, may include the cardiologist, surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse practitioner and other support staff who will be on hand for your child’s medical needs
- A tour of our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and cardiac critical care unit your baby may visit during their hospital stay.
- Access to our family services programs, including Child Life specialists and social services to help you with emotional, family and financial support issues
- Introduction to Hearts and Souls, our support group for families of kids with congenital heart disease
If your baby’s condition will require surgery, a follow-up consultation is arranged for the parents to discuss the upcoming surgery with the cardiothoracic surgery team. This team approach allows families to meet the surgeon who will care for their infant and ask additional questions.
Leading the way in earlier diagnosis
Cook Children's Fetal Echocardiography is led by Lisa Roten, M.D., associate medical director of the Echo Lab and Rebecca Davis, RDCS, supervisor of the Echo Lab.
The program's staff is proud of achieving accreditation in fetal echocardiography from the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories. This accomplishment demonstrates how Cook Children's works hard to provide expert care to our community and we are committed to providing easy access for all patients and their families.
Cook Children's fetal echocardiography team
Care and treatment information
The Echocardiography Lab (Echo Lab) is located on the second floor of Cook Children's Medical Center. The Echo Lab performs diagnostic testing on patients in the lab, as well as in the Emergency Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Cardiac Specialty Care Unit, Cath Lab and cardiac step down area (located at 3 Pavilion). Services provided by the lab include:
We're here to help.
If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. For resources, education or more information on support, click here. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4195.