Congenital heart defects (CHD) are heart conditions present in-utero often requiring treatment immediately after birth. They are the number one birth defect affecting an estimated 8 in every 1,000 pregnancies in the United States. The Fetal Heart Program at The Fetal Center at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital specializes in the early detection of congenital heart defects to reduce morbidity and mortality in babies diagnosed with heart defects. The affiliated team is actively involved in research, education and community awareness in order to improve the detection of congenital heart defects early in pregnancy.
The American Heart Association released guidelines (April, 2014) for the diagnosis and treatment of fetal heart conditions including access to a tertiary care facility with multidisciplinary management, access to state-of-the-art imaging technologies, comprehensive patient counseling and recommendations regarding delivery planning strategies.
By following best practices and guidelines, the Fetal Heart Program includes:
A fetal echocardiogram is a non-invasive imaging technique used during pregnancy for diagnosis of heart problems in the fetus. It is safe for both mother and baby and may be repeated on multiple occasions.
Echocardiography uses ultrasonic waves to visualize the fetal heart and its structures and can also evaluate the heart rate and rhythm and look at blood flow in the fetal circulation. Studies have shown that prenatal diagnosis of fetal cardiac disease improves overall outcome and smooths the transition from birth to immediate cardiac care.
A fetal echocardiogram may be needed for several reasons:
Other indications for referral for advanced screening at The Fetal Center include:
The optimum gestational age for a fetal echocardiogram is around 20 weeks, although one can be performed between 12- 14 weeks. It may need to be repeated later for optimal visualization if the fetal position is poor, if there are adverse maternal factors or if it has been performed in early gestation.
If a congenital heart defect is diagnosed, an echocardiography will be repeated during the pregnancy to allow for perinatal planning with the most current information.
If a fetal heart defect is suspected, the team of coordinators at The Fetal Center will help schedule the following services for the pregnant mother:
If a defect is found and/or if the patient’s care is transferred to our Center for delivery, additional services may be provided prior to delivery including:
If the suspected defect is not confirmed or specialized perinatal care is not required, the pregnant mother will then be referred back to her general Ob/Gyn for management throughout the pregnancy.
When you contact The Fetal Center, you will be in touch with a dedicated coordinator who will walk you through the process step-by-step and help you to understand every aspect of your care.
The Fetal Center at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital
UT Professional Building
6410 Fannin, Suite 210
Houston, Texas 77030
To contact The Fetal Center at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, please fill out the form below.
Located within the Texas Medical Center, The Fetal Center is affiliated with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.