Fetal cardiology is the study of the unborn child’s heart.
What we do
The fetal cardiology unit at Evelina London Children’s Hospital has an international reputation for diagnosing and managing heart problems in babies before birth.
Heart defects can be detected by a detailed ultrasound scan of a baby’s heart during pregnancy (a ‘fetal echocardiogram’). Approximately 2,000 high risk pregnancies are evaluated in our unit each year.
In most cases, we can reassure parents that their unborn baby’s heart is normal. When parents have been worrying – perhaps because they have another child who was born with a heart problem – this will be very welcome news. In some cases a problem will be detected.
We diagnose over 500 heart abnormalities in babies before birth each year. As well as detecting problems with the way the heart has formed, we can detect abnormal heart rhythms and problems with the heart function.
When serious heart defects are detected, our team of experts are in the best position to provide detailed information, discuss options, make plans for the rest of pregnancy, plan for delivery, and provide support for the family. We have a team of specialist nurses and doctors who provide support for families during their journey with us.
Read our leaflet about our fetal and neonatal imaging programme .
We're part of the heart department at Evelina London. Our facilities include:
We are the only unit in the UK to offer a clinical fetal cardiac MRI service; this may be suggested for particular forms of heart disease for which additional information may be improve the care of the baby.
We work with the maternity services at St Thomas’ Hospital to manage expectant patients whose unborn baby has a major form of heart disease. Our team also provide regular fetal cardiology clinics at King’s College Hospital and Medway Maritime Hospital.
The Royal Brompton Hospital and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospitals merged in April 2022. We work with the team within the Royal Brompton Hospital fetal cardiology network to support the delivery of their babies with very critical forms of heart disease.
If your baby is diagnosed with a very critical form of heart disease, we might recommend delivery at St Thomas’ which is the adult hospital situated next to the Evelina London Children’s hospital. This video discusses how babies which require an operation after birth might be managed when delivered at St Thomas’ Hospital.
When serious heart defects are detected, our team of experts are in the best position to provide detailed information, discuss options, make plans for the rest of pregnancy, plan for delivery, and provide support for the family.
We also have close links with maternity services at St Thomas’ Hospital.
Research supported by our team
We are actively involved in local, national and international research to develop the care for unborn babies with major forms of heart disease.
Approved projects that we run together with King’s College London include:
- iFIND: intelligent Fetal Imaging and Diagnosis – finding new technologies that allow scanning to be carried out with multiple ultrasound probes and improved fetal ultrasound imaging through automated image processing.
- Development of fetal heart MRI – recruiting pregnant women carrying a fetus with congenital heart defect for fetal MRI.
- PROMETHEUS – a randomised prospective trial of machine learning to assist in routine fetal anomaly ultrasound scans. It includes both fetuses with normal hearts and those with congenital heart disease.
- FIMOX (fetal imaging maternal hyperoxia) – assessment of fetal response on ultrasound ± MRI to short period of maternal hyperoxygenation (oxygen delivered by a facial mask to the pregnant women).
- CHIP (the congenital heart disease imaging project) – investigating fetal and neonatal brain development and placental development in the context of congenital heart disease.
- BEATS Study – recruiting participants were the baby has a suspected arrhythmia or is at risk of arrhythmia to assess the fetal heart rhythm using fetal ECG.
We are working with national and international units running studies which collate anonymised data when parents have specifically consented to data-sharing, on some specific heart lesions, for example, aortic stenosis, pulmonary stenosis, Ebstein’s anomaly/tricuspid valve dysplasia, cardiomyopathy. All studies require parental consent to be provided and if you are interested please mention this to the fetal cardiology team.