World Heart Day focuses on women and children

Friday 28 September 2012

Fetal medicine scan

Did you know that over 5,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease each year in the UK? 

World Heart Day on Saturday 29 September, raises awareness of cardiovascular disease. This year the British Heart Foundation is focusing the day on prevention of cardiovascular disease among women and children.

Krupali Patel is a specialist cardiac fetal sonographer at the Evelina Children’s Hospital. As well as performing scans in the cardiology department at the Evelina, she also visits obstetric, pregnancy and childbirth departments across the south east teaching best practice imaging techniques to other sonographers scanning fetal hearts. Her work is funded by a 2 year British Heart Foundation Project.

Krupali said: ”The baby’s heart is always the first thing I look at during an anomaly scan. At 20 weeks, the baby’s heart is just the size of a thumbnail but we can see so much detail, even then. Fortunately the vast majority of newborns are completely healthy, however one in every 133 babies are born with a heart defect. In some cases detecting heart abnormalities before birth can help save lives, and antenatal detection gives parents the opportunity to be prepared and gives them choices.”

While all sonographers are highly trained and our detection rates are good in the UK, Krupali is teaching best practice techniques to try and improve cardiac defect detection rates even further. It is also very important that once a cardiac abnormality is detected the patient is referred to a specialist centre such as the Evelina Children’s Hospital, for further assessment, diagnosis and counselling if necessary.

Thankfully about 80% of babies born today with a heart defect survive into adulthood. The Evelina Children’s Hospital evaluates around 2,000 pregnancies each year where the baby is at increased risk of congenital heart disease. Almost 200 babies in the womb are diagnosed with congenital heart disease at the hospital each year. Over 100 of these babies are delivered at St Thomas’, to ensure they get the specialist cardiac treatments they may need when they are born.

Last updated: September 2012

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