Fetal Cardiology

Fetal Cardiology

Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects, Planning for Pregnancy and Delivery

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Diagnosing heart problems before birth ensures your baby gets the most effective treatment as early as possible. Our pediatric heart specialists use the latest screening technology to diagnose congenital heart defects while babies are still in the womb. If your baby is diagnosed with a heart defect, we offer every resource you need for your pregnancy, your delivery at Duke University Hospital, and to help you prepare for your baby’s treatment before and after birth.

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Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects Before Birth

Congenital heart defects are problems with a baby’s heart structure that can range from simple, easy-to-fix concerns to more complex conditions that require pediatric heart surgery and ongoing care through adulthood.

If a heart abnormality is detected during a routine ultrasound scan, or another medical concern is suspected, you will be referred to our fetal cardiology team. Identifying congenital heart defects requires precise screening performed by experts who are trained to recognize congenital heart defects as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Our fetal heart experts use advanced tests to accurately diagnose your baby’s possible heart condition as soon as possible. These noninvasive tests require no radiation or contrast-dye injections and pose no health concerns to you or your baby.

Fetal Echocardiogram

This is a more sophisticated version of the ultrasound you normally get during pregnancy. It is performed by a medical expert trained to use this technology to evaluate the structure and function of a fetal heart.

Fetal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A fetal MRI uses radio waves and a computer to create clear, high-resolution images of your baby’s heart structures without the need for X-rays or ionizing radiation

Genetic Testing

We may advise that you undergo genetic testing if you have a family history of congenital heart disease, or your baby is identified as having a genetic or chromosomal abnormality.

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Care During Pregnancy

If a heart defect is found, your pediatric cardiologist will discuss the diagnosis and its implications for your pregnancy and delivery and recommend a treatment plan for your baby.

Advanced Prenatal Care and Monitoring
You may be scheduled for regular fetal stress tests and more frequent appointments with your obstetrician, the pediatric cardiologist, and other members of our team, such as a pediatric heart surgeon, as you get closer to your delivery date.

You may receive safe medications during your pregnancy that are passed from your bloodstream to your baby’s.

A Team Approach
During your pregnancy, you may be seen by other members of our team, including anesthesiologists, nurses, and social workers, as well as other specialists, such as endocrinologists and nutritionists. We coordinate your care so that the multiple specialists can review your test results and images at the same time.

Dedicated Nurse Coordinator
Our nurse coordinator will assist with your appointments to reduce your number of visits to our clinics and help you get the most benefit from the time you spend with us.

Duke Nurseries
Our Level IV  neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) includes the Intensive Care Nursery, Transitional Care Nursery, Special Care Nursery, and the Duke Regional Hospital Special Care Nursery. Depending on the severity of your baby’s condition, you may be scheduled for a cesarean section, and your baby may go directly to the NICU after delivery. Our NICU is equipped to treat babies with heart issues, as well as those born as early as 32 weeks. And we also have a specialized pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU) for children with heart disease.

Personalized Tours
Knowing what to expect during and after delivery can make the process feel less scary. We offer tours of our delivery rooms, nurseries, PCICU, and other facilities.

Delivering at Duke

If your baby is diagnosed with a congenital heart defect before birth, you will deliver at Duke University Hospital where you will have access to our experts and the latest advances in pediatric care.

Skin-to-Skin Bonding
This connection between mother and baby is an important and cherished time during the first few days of life. We work to make sure you and your child can safely experience this bonding as much as possible, and as soon as possible after birth.

Expert, Ongoing Heart Care
Our pediatric heart center can help you and your family coordinate care from childhood through adulthood, so the right treatments are always available to meet your child’s needs.

Duke Children's Hospital is nationally ranked in 9 specialties
Best Children's Hospital in NC
Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.
Reviewed: 06/18/2018