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Fetal echocardiography, also called echocardiogram or echo, is a test that examines the fetus’ heart for abnormalities in function or structure.
The test is valuable in diagnosis of many fetal cardiac disorders. It helps doctors determine if fetal surgery is needed and plan for the best treatment plans immediately after birth. Fetal echocardiography is not painful and does not harm the fetus.
Fetal echocardiography, which is usually done between 18 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) to look at the function and structure of the fetal heart.
The test is performed using one of the following routes:
- Abdominal ultrasound: This is the most common method.
- Endovaginal ultrasound: A small probe is inserted into the vagina. This type of echocardiogram may be done earlier in pregnancy.
During the test, the ultrasound transducer is moved gently. It emits sound waves that “echo” off the baby’s heart and makes images on a computer screen.