Pediatric and Fetal Ultrasound

A Heart Ultrasound provides your child’s doctor with moving images of his or her heart and takes excellent pictures that will help your child’s doctor evaluate his or her heart health. The most common type of heart ultrasound is non-invasive and very easy on your child.

Two types of Heart Ultrasound are discussed on this page:

Pediatric Heart Ultrasound (also called Cardiovascular Ultrasound or Echocardiogram)

A specially trained technician, (Cardiac Sonographer), uses a gel to slide a microphone-like device called a transducer over the chest area. This allows reflected sound waves to provide a live picture of your heart and valves. Heart Ultrasound uses the same technology that allows doctors to see an unborn baby inside a pregnant mother. No radiation is involved in heart ultrasound, and the technology can be used on people of all ages. Cardiovascular Ultrasound not only looks at the structure and function of the heart, but also all of the blood flow patterns through the valves, heart chambers, arteries, and veins. The Heart Ultrasound generally takes approximately 45-60 minutes, and is not painful.

Your child or adolescent may be referred for a cardiovascular ultrasound for a variety of reasons. These can include:

  1. A suspected heart murmur or other abnormal heart sound heard on examination
  2. Abnormal oxygen saturation on examination
  3. Concerns regarding heart function
    1. Following a heart infection such as myocarditis, rheumatic fever, or endocarditis
    2. Following treatment with specific chemotherapeutic agents (anthracyclines) for cancer
    3. Cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, decreasing exercise tolerance
    4. Enlarged heart on chest XRAY
    5. Receiving a medication which may affect heart function
    6. Persistent elevation in blood pressure
  1. Family history of cardiomyopathy (dilated or thickened hearts)
  1. Concern regarding coronary arteries
    1. Kawasaki disease
    2. Chest pain with exercise
    3. Syncope (fainting)

Fetal Heart Ultrasound (Fetal Echocardiogram)

An ultrasound of your fetus’ heart provides your doctor with moving images of the heart and takes excellent pictures that will help your doctors evaluate your baby’s heart health. A specially trained technician, (Sonographer), or cardiologist uses a gel to slide a microphone-like device called a transducer over your abdomen area. This allows reflected sound waves to provide a live picture of your baby’s heart and valve structure and function. Heart Ultrasound uses the same technology that allows doctors to see an unborn baby inside a pregnant mother. No radiation is involved in heart ultrasound, and the technology can be used on people of all ages. This test is safe and not painful. You may be referred for a fetal heart ultrasound during pregnancy by your obstetrician for a variety of reasons. These can include:

  1. Your obstetrician suspects a heart defect due to abnormal heart views on an obstetric scan
  2. Abnormal fetal heart rate

    a.       Tachycardia (too fast, over 200 beats per minute)

    b.       Bradycardia (too slow, less than 100 beats per minute)

    c.       Persistently irregular (skipped or extra beats)

  3. Hydrops (heart failure)
  4. Family history (first degree relative) with a heart defect
  5. Increased nuchal translucency (neck thickness) on a first trimester screening scan.
  6. You yourself have a disease that may increase the risk of a heart defect or abnormal rhythm in your fetus

    a.       Diabetes Mellitus

    b.       Sjogren’s syndrome or Lupus (especially in the presence of ssA or ssB antibodies)

  7. Your fetus has an abnormality that can have an associated heart defect or by itself affect heart function such as:

    a.       Lung mass (can affect heart function and growth)  Diaphragmatic Hernia, Congenital Cystic Adenomatous Malformation, Sequestration

    b.       Intestinal abnormality  Omphalocele, Duodenal Atresia, Tracheoesophageal atresia

8. Twin-Twin transfusion syndrome

9. Chromosomal abnormalities with associated heart problems.

Last Update 6/24/2008