Paediatric echocardiogram: definition and use

A paediatric echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan of a child’s heart. An echocardiogram, or ecg, uses sound waves to create images and videos of the heart

Doctors use the echo to assess the functioning of your child’s heart and identify any problems.

What is a paediatric echocardiogram?

An ECG is a safe and effective test for children of all ages and sizes, including infants and unborn children.

Paediatric echocardiography uses sound waves to take pictures and show them on a monitor, like a pregnancy ultrasound.

An egg focuses on the heart, showing its details:

  • size
  • Shape
  • Internal parts, such as chambers, valves, walls and attached blood vessels
  • Movement as it pumps with each heartbeat

Why does my child need an echocardiogram?

What is an echocardiogram and what can it detect?

Cardiologists use the paediatric echocardiogram to identify and evaluate

  • Structural heart defects, such as problems with heart chambers or valves and unusual openings or connections within the heart
  • Complex congenital heart disease (heart conditions present at birth)
  • The pumping force of the heart
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Infection in or around the heart, such as myocarditis
  • High blood pressure in the blood vessels to the lungs

Your child may need an echo if they have signs or symptoms of a heart condition, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Bluish colour around the lips when crying
  • Heart murmur
  • Heart palpitations (a feeling of an accelerated, pounding or jumping heartbeat)
  • Poor growth
  • Chest pain

Types of paediatric echocardiogram

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

A paediatric transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), the most common type, is a painless and non-invasive (does not enter the body) test.

A TTE produces images of your child’s heart from outside the chest.

Fetal echocardiogram

If you are pregnant, your doctor may notice signs of a heart condition in your unborn baby during a routine prenatal ultrasound.

Experienced cardiologists use the fetal echocardiogram to assess the baby’s heart for reasons that include:

  • Family history of congenital heart disease (heart conditions present at birth) or other heart problems
  • Medical conditions in the mother that may affect the baby’s heart, such as lupus, rubella or pre-pregnancy diabetes
  • Family history or signs of genetic diseases such as Down syndrome
  • Suspected heart problem

A fetal echo is a painless, non-invasive imaging test that involves passing a transducer over the mother’s belly.

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