Some types of congenital heart disease (CHD) can be treated or controlled before a baby is even born. These fetal interventions can, at times, improve the chances of survival for a baby with a congenital heart defect or reduce the number of surgeries that child may need once born.
A fetal echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) will be performed to see if fetal heart development appears to be normal. If structural problems are identified with the heart, the medical care team will work with the family to determine treatment options and likely outcomes.
Currently, in most cases that are severe enough to require treatment, an interventional procedure using thin, flexible tubes called catheters or surgery will be performed immediately or soon after the baby is born to correct the congenital heart defect or decrease its severity. Depending on the type of CHD, medications may also be administered to the mother and/or fetus to control the heart condition.
In special cases, the medical care team may recommend that an interventional procedure be performed to repair the heart of the fetus in utero (in the womb). These procedures offer the potential of allowing the fetal heart to recover and grow along a more normal developmental path.
Fetal interventional cardiology is still an emerging area of medicine. Only a few types of congenital heart defects (such as critical aortic valve stenosis and hypoplastic left heart syndrome with intact atrial septum) are potentially treatable while the baby is still in the womb. If you or a loved one underwent a fetal echocardiogram that identified a fetal heart defect, ask your cardiologist if fetal interventional options might exist.
Children's Heart Health
Information for parents of children with pediatric heart conditions. Read more about conditions, tests, and treatments for congenital heart disease.