The Fetal Heart Program is offered through the Children's Hospital of Georgia Heart Center. This program is dedicated to caring for expectant mothers whose babies have been
diagnosed with a heart defect while still in utero.
Heart defects found in your unborn baby make your pregnancy high-risk. High-risk pregnancies
are monitored more carefully than normal pregnancies by maternal-fetal medicine specialists
as well as a fetal cardiologist. Our fetal cardiologists have decades of experience
in diagnosing and treating these tiny patients, focusing on the specialized care and
support you and your baby will need. With emphasis on getting you safely through pregnancy,
delivering your baby, and then determine the next steps needed for treatment and care.
Why Choose Us
Newly diagnosed patients will be seen by multiple doctors and specialists. A fetal
care coordinator will be your point person - organizing your doctor's appointments,
and trying to get them all on the same day, if possible.
- Collaborative care: Our multidisciplinary care team works together for you and your baby. The remainder
of your pregnancy is managed by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who collaborates with your fetal cardiologist. Your team can also include pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, neonatal
and pediatric intensivists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and more. This
team works closely with you to develop a detailed care plan.
- Highest level NICU in the area: Our Level IV NICU has the region’s largest team of neonatologists providing the highest level of care
to infants. We are unique in that we are the only hospital in the state of Georgia
where Labor & Delivery is located just steps away from our NICU, so you will be able
to visit your baby as often as you are able after birth and during their treatment.
- Home Monitoring Program: After surgery, infants may be able to leave the hospital to recover at home while
waiting on their next surgery. The Home Monitoring Program partners with parents to show them how to successfully care for their child between
What to Expect
If your obstetrician suspects a congenital heart defect due to a family history, or
because of a suspicious ultrasound, ask to be referred to our fetal care coordinator.
Planning for your delivery
Depending on the type and complexity of your baby’s heart defect, we may have you
deliver at Augusta University Medical Center, so your baby can have immediate access
to our NICU and a pediatric cardiology evaluation.
When you are between 32 to 35 weeks pregnant your team will hold a family meeting.
This includes tours of our NICU and PICU. Your family will get to meet with the entire
care team to review your birth plan and go over any questions you have before delivery.
What happens after delivery?
Your child will most likely be transferred to our NICU and may remain here until discharge
or surgery. If your child needs surgery, they will be transferred to the pediatric
intensive care unit (PICU) for post-operative care.
While it's possible that your child may not require additional surgery, with more complex heart defects, they may require a series of procedures. Continued medical management may also be needed. After their initial procedure, your
child will continue to receive follow-up care at our outpatient office where their
pediatric cardiologist will provide ongoing management and surgical referrals as needed.
Conditions We Treat
There are many kinds of congenital heart defects that we can detect in babies before
they are born or immediately following birth. Some common heart defects we see are:
- Ventricular septal defects, defects of the inlet heart valves.
- Tetralogy of Fallot, is a combination of heart defects that affect the way the heart functions.
- Transposition of the great vessels, when the two arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs and body are connected
to the incorrect pumping chamber.
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return, the pulmonary veins attach to the cardiovascular system in the wrong place causing
poorly oxygenated blood to mix with oxygenated blood. This lack of oxygen causes babies
to appear blue (cyanotic).
- Single ventricle heart defect, when only one ventricle is large enough or strong enough to pump blood effectively.
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, during development in utero, the left side of the heart does not form correctly, causing
blood to flow abnormally through the heart.
- Fetal arrhythmia, is when the heart beats irregularly in utero.
- Hydrops, is when a heart defect or rhythm abnormality limits the heart function, or other
organ is functioning poorly, causing fluid to build up in the abdomen, and around
the heart and lungs of an unborn baby.