Heart Center: Fetal Heart Program

Diagnosis and management of congenital heart disease in unborn children

The Fetal Heart Program at Children’s focuses on the diagnosis and management of fetuses with congenital heart disease. Parents of affected children are further aided, educated and counseled with regard to care, treatment options and overall preparedness for delivering an infant with congenital heart disease.

Children’s is the first hospital in the nation, pediatric or adult, to receive disease-specific certification for Fetal Heart Disease.

Fetal heart anomalies can usually be diagnosed between 18 to 22 week’s gestation, using fetal echocardiography. Currently, we perform approximately 22 fetal echos a month. Of those 22, approximately six will require cardiac surgery and two will require treatment during pregnancy. Echo’s are conducted at both the Dallas and Legacy locations.

If a heart problem is identified, our team works with the family and referring physicians to develop a plan of care, beginning with option for delivery. We work closely with referring obstetricians, perinatologists, neonatologists and pediatric cardiologists to plan the best delivery options and subsequent care for the baby. After delivery, the infant is transferred to Children’s for surgical and/or medical treatment and could be cared for in the Heart Center’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.

If your unborn baby is diagnosed with a cardiac defect

Patient families visiting the Fetal Heart Program for the first time can expect:

  • an introduction to the program by the Fetal Heart coordinator
  • a fetal echocardiogram and analysis by a fetal cardiologist specializing in heart disease in unborn babies
  • a consultation with a fetal cardiologist immediately following the fetal echo, with ample time for questions and answers
  • a consultation with a cardiothoracic surgeon to discuss surgical options and outcomes
  • a tour of the facilities and an opportunity to meet other members of the Heart Center team