Pregnancy Clinic

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Fetal cardiac scan (20 to 22 weeks)

The assessment of the baby’s heart is a standard part of every fetal anomaly scan. In some pregnancies, a more detailed assessment of the fetal heart is required in view of factors in the mothers previous medical or pregnancy history or due to findings in the current pregnancy.

Who needs specialist heart scans in pregnancy?

A specialist heart scan is recommended in pregnancies with pre-existing medical problems such as diabetes mellitus or epilepsy, in those with a personal or family history of congenital heart defects, in those with a history of delivering a baby with heart defect in a previous pregnancy and in those who have ultrasound findings associated with high risk of heart defects such as an increased nuchal translucency in the first trimester or those where there is a suspicion of heart defect.

What is examined at the fetal cardiac scan?

The detailed fetal cardiac scan includes a comprehensive review of the structure of the heart, its chambers and valves as well as main blood vessels coming out the ventricular chambers of the heart. The assessment is carried out with using 2D views as well as use of colour and pulsed Doppler technology to assess the pattern and speed of blood flow characteristics in various parts of the heart. This scan is designed to only detect major heart defects that are present before birth. There are some defects that cannot be detected before birth of the baby as they can be present before birth as normal patterns of circulation in the baby.

How is the scan carried out?

The anomaly scan is performed transabdominally (scanning through the abdomen). A full bladder is not required for these scans.

Can the early pregnancy scan assess risk for chromosomal abnormalities?

The risk for common chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome cannot be assessed from the early pregnancy scan. This is carried out at the 11-13 week assessment by undertaking a combined screening based on your age, ultrasound scan findings and results of blood tests. You could however choose to have non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) at or after 10 weeks based on analysis of cell-free DNA from a blood test.

How happens after the scan?

You will be explained the results of the scan in detail and provided with a comprehensive report including measurements obtained during the scan. All images obtained during the scan will be provided to you along with an electronic version of the ultrasound scan report.

How can I request a fetal cardiac scan?

You can request for a fetal cardiac scan at the time of your Anomaly scan and you will have an opportunity to discuss this in detail. Alternatively, you can e-mail your request to or call 01732 647072 to request a consultation. You will have the option of booking an evening or weekend appointment and the booking team from the clinic will contact you within 12-24 hours to book this.