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Heart Screening for Children

  • Prenatal Screening for Pregnant Women

    Prenatal heart screening is a form of heart screening for the unborn fetus in-utero. It is used to detect congential heart conditions before birth, so that parents can be prepared for the situation and the heart specialists can determine the best course of treatment after birth.

    A prenatal echocardiogram, for example, can be used to detect structural defects in the baby’s heart. This is an ultrasound test that produces images of the heart structure, and can be used to diagnose congential heart diseases such as atrial septal defectventricular septal defect and tetralogy of Fallot.

    Prenatal heart screening is a precautionary test that may not be conclusive, as the small size of the baby’s heart means that detecting the extent of the defect can be difficult. Prenatal heart screening is usually more conclusive for severe congential problems, such as tetralogy of Fallot. In many situations, small congential defects may mend itself closer to birth or even after birth, so it is best for parents not to worry unnecessarily when directed to a prenatal heart screening.


    The following situations may make it more likely for the gynaecologist to recommend prenatal heart screening:

    • Parents who were born with a congential heart disease, or parents who have previously given birth to a child with congential heart disease
    • Parents who have diabetes
    • Mothers who abuse drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
    • Mothers who take medication that can potentially result in heart defects, such as epilepsy medicine
    • Abnormalities in the baby’s heartbeat detected during routine ultrasound tests for the mother
  • Heart Screening for Infants


    Heart screening for infants is usually done if there were abnormalities detected during prenatal screening, or if the infant displays certain symptoms like:

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Difficulty feeding
    • Poor weight gain
    • Bluish lips and nail beds at birth
    • Bluish skin, especially when crying and feeding
    • Abnormalities detected during physical examination

    Congential heart diseases such as atrial septal defectventricular septal defect or tetralogy of Fallot can result in heart murmur. This is characterised by a ‘whooshing’ or ‘wheezing’ sound heard when listening to the heart with a stethoscope. An echocardiogram can be performed on infants when the doctor suspects a congential heart disease. An electrocardiogram, where electrodes are attached to the area around the heart, can also be used to monitor the heart rate and rhythm of the infant.

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