It is believed that among ever 120 children in India, one is diagnosed with a heart defect and about a third of them have serious heart defects. At a time when we speak highly about caring for our heart, doctors are looking for alternatives to avoid such late diagnosis.
With ultrasound technology at its best, it is now possible to diagnose defects in the womb of the mother itself, this procedure is known as foetal echocardiography.
“Foetal echo is a procedure that can be done between 18 to 24 weeks of the pregnancy. The technology screens the heart of the foetus very closely to identify congenital heart morbidities so that either the pregnancy can be terminated (if it’s before 20 weeks) or the parents can be better equipped to financially or even otherwise take care of the child’s condition,” said Dr Kshitij Sheth, interventional paediatric cardiologist at PD Hinduja Hospital, Nanavati Hospital and many such hospitals in Mumbai.
He said, “A few months ago, I had a patient who was 19 weeks pregnant. On doing a foetal echo, we realised that the kid had a serious heart defect. The couple then decided to terminate the child. One must note that the technology in India is highly under-utilised,” he added.
In a study from Chennai, out of 180 foetal echocardiography studies in a high-risk subset, congenital heart defects were found in 14 cases. Twelve foetuses had associated congenital abnormalities and all resulted in termination, reported a study published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
“In Fortis, we use this technique very carefully. I think apart from the termination aspect, it helps in counselling the mother and the families about how and what precautions to take and accept the condition. I just hope the technology gets popular and can be used for better outcomes,” said Dr Swati Garekar, a paediatric cardiologist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund.