The treatment of
cardiac conditions often starts with diagnosis before birth. Our consultant
paediatric cardiologists provide fetal diagnosis for women in
Bristol and across the South West. They also travel to clinics
throughout the region to assess paediatric and adult cases, and can
use a high-definition telemedicine system to consult referring
doctors in their local hospitals. The paediatric cardiologists in
Cardiff are an integral part of our team, and refer patients
requiring surgery or catheter intervention to us.
Mothers whose unborn babies have been diagnosed with urgent
needs are referred to St Michaels Hospital, close to the Bristol
Royal Hospital for Children. Care continues beyond our wards,
through our outreach services and clinics. As some patients require
further treatment later in life, we ensure that we provide a
continuous service from birth to old age.
What is fetal echocardiography?
Fetal echocardiography is a test using sound waves (ultrasound)
to study the structure of your baby's heart before birth. Your
obstetrician may obtain a limited view of your baby's heart during
a routine pregnancy ultrasound. However, a fetal echocardiogram is
a very detailed evaluation of your baby's heart by a specialist in
fetal echocardiography. There are no known risks to the mother or
Who needs a detailed fetal echocardiogram?
Some pregnant women are at increased risk of giving birth to a
baby with congenital heart disease (CHD). They should be considered
for referral for a specialized fetal echocardiogram. Indications
include the following:
- a family history of CHD
- an abnormal fetal heart rhythm
- fetal heart abnormalities detected during a routine pregnancy
- abnormality of another major organ system
- insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes mellitus
- exposure to some drugs in early pregnancy, for example, some
anti-epileptic drugs can damage the developing heart
- abnormal amniocentesis
Your doctor will let you know what the results of the
echocardiogram mean, and advise what can be done if a heart defect
is detected. Currently only cardiac rhythm disturbances are being
treated before birth, but in future a number of structural
cardiac defects may be treated before birth.
South West and South Wales Congenital Heart Centre