Diagnosing Patients We Haven't Met Yet
When your baby needs the most advanced cardiac care, Children’s National Heart Institute is the preeminent provider of fetal cardiac services in the Washington, DC area. The Fetal Heart Program, part of the Heart Institute’s continuum of care, is dedicated to our patients who haven’t been born yet.
Early Intervention for Improved Outcomes
Care begins in utero, which maximizes planning time and allows for early treatment of heart abnormalities — often within moments of delivery. Fetal echocardiography is most often performed to detect heart defects at 18-20 weeks gestation; however, in high risk pregnancies, serious heart defects can be identified as early as 12 weeks. As part of the Fetal Medicine Institute, prenatal care is coordinated so that your baby has all of the necessary specialists involved in care. We treat the fetus as an individual patient from the time of diagnosis. It is our goal to understand the effects the heart and cardiovascular system has on the well-being of the baby in utero as well as the impact the circulation has on growth and development of other parts of the body. In some instances, in-utero intervention may be possible, most often involving medical treatment delivered to the fetus through the expectant mother. Once a diagnosis is made, we explain what to expect for the duration of the pregnancy and after delivery — we make certain that all of your questions are answered and families have the support they need.
Program Director Mary T. Donofrio, MD, expanded the Fetal Heart Program to include the region’s only First Trimester Fetal Cardiac Imaging Program. In addition, she is the Medical Director of the Critical Care Delivery Program, working closely with a team that includes world renowned cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, intensivists, and specially trained cardiac nurses.
Postnatally, care is coordinated with subspecialists in:
The Heart Institute’s team provides a variety of cardiac services including fetal cardiac care, electrophysiology, interventional catheterization, congenital heart surgery, heart failure treatment, and cardiac transplantation.
Our Relationship with Community Providers
Team members have strong ties in the community with local obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians, and coordinate consultations with Children’s cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, and other subspecialists. When we know that cardiac surgery will be necessary, arrangements can be made for the delivery to occur in a facility where the infant can be stabilized with the help of cardiologists prior to transport to Children’s National.
In rare cases for which severe compromise is anticipated at the time of birth, the Critical Care Delivery Team can plan for a delivery at Children’s National with the support of a collaborative obstetrical team. We can plan the details of the baby’s delivery and specialty care so a heart abnormality does not lead to significant illness or compromise at the time of birth. Once transported to Children’s National, your baby is cared for in a dedicated Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) receiving individualized care from our multidisciplinary team of experts, all specializing in the care of patients with congenital heart disease.