Before birth, diagnosis of a congenital heart defect frequently begins with an unusual or suspicious finding on a routine ultrasound examination. A follow-up ultrasound that looks specifically at the heart, its chambers, valves and vessels will be done. This ultrasound is called a fetal echocardiogram. With this type of ultrasound a diagnosis of congenital heart disease can usually be confirmed or ruled out.
After birth the infant presents with signs and symptoms consistent with the type of heart defect. Severe heart disease generally becomes evident during the first few minutes or days after birth. Some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly after birth. Other defects cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems, or poor weight gain. Minor defects are most often diagnosed on a routine medical check up. The most common finding in minor defects is a heart murmur.
Other tests used to assess heart function and the presence of a congenital heart defect may include:
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac catheterization
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Computerized Tomography of the Heart
- Electrophysiology study
More Answers from Deborah Raines, MSN