Early Detection Crucial

Early Detection Crucial The Experts At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Are Specialists In Detecting And Treating Congenital Heart Disease

 By Dr. Stephanie A. Acosta

If your child has a congenital heart defect, then early detection, even before birth, is one of the most important steps that parents can take to improve outcomes and plan for their child’s future. Though rare, these defects are a reality for many parents. Congenital heart disease is the most common type of birth defect and present in about one out of every 100 births annually in the U.S. An estimated one million children and 1.4 million adults in the U.S. are currently living with congenital heart disease.

The Importance Of Early Detection 
As early as four months after conception, fetal imaging can detect most heart problems in a fetus, including congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, cardiac tumors and other heart abnormalities. A fetal echocardiogram is a safe, noninvasive exam that uses ultrasound waves to create images. The technology allows the unborn baby’s heart to be examined while the child is still in the womb. The echocardiogram is administered by sonographers with advanced training, and it does not pose any risk to either the fetus or the expectant mother.

By utilizing echocardiograms, specialists at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital can detect and begin the treatment for fetal arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms); complex congenital heart diseases that require intervention after birth; and simple congenital heart defects/abnormalities.

A Precautionary Measure
If your obstetrician recommends that you have a fetal echocardiogram, don’t panic. Fetal echocardiograms are most often ordered as a precautionary measure for expectant mothers who have a personal or paternal history of congenital heart disease, had another child with a congenital heart disorder, have been exposed to certain infections or medications, or have a medical condition, such as diabetes or lupus, that may increase the chances that the unborn baby will have a heart defect or abnormality.

If you are pregnant with more than one baby, your obstetrician may also order a fetal echocardiogram. If an abnormality is detected, you will be referred to a fetal cardiologist, a physician with expertise in diagnosing and managing heart conditions before birth.

Advance knowledge of a heart defect will allow your care team to provide comprehensive education and counseling to families; treat the condition before birth, when possible; create a comprehensive management plan for both before and after your baby’s birth; and evaluate the effect of extra-cardiac malformations on the heart and determine whether further treatment is necessary.

Knowledge that a baby-to-be has a heart defect is alarming news for any family. Yet sophisticated care methods available today are enabling the vast majority of these children to survive and thrive. The right care team will offer the best and most innovative treatments, world-class facilities, and spend time guiding you and your family through every step of the care process.

The Fetal Cardiology Program 
As part of its commitment to be where the children are, the Nicklaus Children’s Fetal Cardiology Program has seven convenient locations throughout the region, ranging as far south as Miami and as far north as Palm City. The program provides comprehensive care to families expecting an infant with suspected or diagnosed congenital heart disease. The team at Nicklaus Children’s includes pediatric cardiologists who specialize in fetal cardiology, advanced cardiac imaging, cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology, as well as cardiac intensivists, neonatologists, geneticists and cardiothoracic surgeons who work collectively to meet the needs of families throughout their care journey.

The Fetal Cardiology Program is part of the Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and it offers some of the most innovative treatments for congenital heart disease in the world. In fact, some of the treatments employed by the internationally renowned cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s were pioneered at the hospital before becoming the standard of care at other hospitals. The goal is to improve the care of infants with congenital heart disease through perinatal diagnosis, prenatal planning, post-natal care, and follow-up after birth and throughout the child’s life.

Welcome To Wellington
To better serve all communities throughout the South Florida area, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital recently opened its newest location in Wellington. The new Nicklaus Children’s Pediatric Specialists at Wellington location has board-certified specialists that provide consultations for babies, children, teens and young adults under 21 years old.

The program offers fetal and pediatric cardiology appointments, echocardiograms, Holter/event monitor testing, cardiac genetic testing and free EKG screenings for young athletes, among other services.

Same-day and next-day appointments are available at the Wellington location. To make an appointment, or to learn more, call (561) 877-5870 or visit www.nicklauschildrens.org/wellington.