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Fetal Cardiology

AndyThe 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 Michael's 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 the fetus

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 ultrasound scan
  • 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. 

The South West and South Wales Congenital Heart Centre

For clinicians 

Our referral criteria is available here.
You can download our e-referral form here