Having a child should be one of the most joyful times in a couple's life. However, that can all change when you hear, "Your baby may have a heart defect." These are words that would paralyze any soon-to-be-parent. Congenital heart defects are the most common of all birth defects, occurring at a rate of approximately eight cases per 1,000 live births. 

Prenatal screenings have improved over the last 50 years, allowing us to diagnose most congenital problems before the baby is even born. One important step in the prenatal assessment is looking at the baby's heart. This scan shows us the basic heart structure. If there are any concerns, we refer the mother for a more specialized cardiac assessment known as a fetal echocardiogram or fetal echo. During a fetal echo, we look closely at the heart's anatomy, heart rate, rhythm, function and blood flow.

When is a fetal echo recommended for an expectant mother?

  • If the mother has already had a child born with a heart defect.
  • If there is a family history of genetic heart problems.
  • If the mother has a health condition such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, genetic conditions or exposure to certain medications.
  • If the baby has a genetic disorder.
  • If the routine ultrasound shows a possible abnormality or if the baby’s heart can’t be seen well. 

If there are any problems found with the baby's heart, follow-up visits and more fetal echos will be needed as the baby grows and develops. Identifying heart problems before birth is important not only to prepare the parents, but to plan for the needs of the baby after he or she arrives.

The Fetal Heart Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, includes pediatric cardiologists, nurses and sonographers with expertise in fetal cardiac imaging and congenital heart defects. They work with subspecialties including maternal fetal medicine, neonatology, pediatric cardiovascular surgery, pediatric surgery and genetics, to provide you with the most comprehensive prenatal care for your unborn child.



Call 501-364-4000 to schedule an appointment.

Available Monday - Friday 7:00 am - 4:30 pm (CST)

You must have a referral from your doctor.


Renee Bornemeier

Dr. Renee Bornemeier is the Interim Chair of Department of Pediatrics and Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH)