About Cardiac Scans

How common are heart defects?

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the commonest cause of congenital anomalies and occurs in about 1 in 150 newborn babies (about 5000 babies every year in the UK). Early detection is a key factor as about half of these babies will need urgent assessment and specialised care. If it goes undiagnosed, reports tell us that it can be responsible for up to 10% of neonatal deaths after birth and up to half of all infant deaths.

Antenatal detection of CHD is key; it provides an opportunity for treatment before birth, planned delivery in the right hospital with the right treatment immediately after birth and planning of further assessment and treatment as required.

How are heart defects usually picked up in pregnancy?

NHS Anomaly Scan (20+ weeks): the Anomaly Scan is designed to pick up structural abnormalities in the baby including heart defects. About 5-10 minutes are focused on assessing the heart, but at this stage of pregnancy the baby’s heart is about the size of a grape and this means that around half of major cardiac defects are missed.

Are there additional services available?

Yes; we offer 2 extra checks:

Cardiac Scan (24+ weeks): A Cardiac Scan at 24 weeks focuses on the baby’s heart which is now about the size of a plum. This provides a better view of the heart and more time to examine it in detail. If there are any concerns about the baby’s heart then you will be referred to a Paediatric Cardiologist for an even more detailed cardiac scan- a fetal echo.

Pulse Oximetry (Newborn): An infrared light sensor is used to measure the oxygen levels in the blood in the baby’s hands and feet. Low oxygen levels or abnormal distribution of oxygen levels may be a sign of a heart defect and thus the baby would be referred to a Paediatric cardiologist for further assessment. Sometimes it may also be a sign of other serious non cardiac health problems.