Fetal Heart Defect Treatment – The Fetal Heart Program at CHOP | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Cardiac Center

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Fetal Heart Program

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects in children — and among the most complex. The Fetal Heart Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is a national leader in the evaluation, diagnosis and management of fetal heart defects prior to birth. Referring physicians from around the United States and the world rely on the expertise of our team of fetal cardiologists, led by Jack Rychik, MD.

Typically, fetal heart anomalies can be diagnosed at about 16 to 18 weeks’ gestation. However, our Fetal Heart Program is one of just a few in the country to offer early fetal cardiovascular imaging (EFCI), which allows diagnosis of heart anomalies as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.

Expert evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of fetal heart defects

Before your baby's birth - your first visit

During your first visit to the Fetal Heart Program, we will perform a comprehensive evaluation, including a fetal echocardiogram. When testing is completed, you will meet with our team – including your nurse coordinator, a fetal cardiologist and a social worker – the very same day. We will explain the diagnosis and answer all of your questions. We will also outline treatment options to help you make the best decisions for your baby and your family.

Fetal echos performed 2008-12: 15,555

Our specially trained team performs more than 3,500 fetal echocardiograms each year, making our Fetal Heart Program one of the largest programs of its kind.

Click or hover over bars to see the number of echos performed each year.

Multidisciplinary care

The Fetal Heart Program team works closely with experts from CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment to provide seamless, well-coordinated care for you and your baby. Our multidisciplinary team includes obstetricians, pediatric surgeons, pediatric anesthesiologists, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, pediatric cardiologists, genetic counselors, nurses, a psychologist and a social worker — all of whom are focused on and specially trained to care for fetuses with CHD and their mothers.

Our team will work closely with you and your family to plan care and make thoughtful decisions about next steps. Our goal is to provide your baby with the most advanced cardiac care and to support you every step of the way.


Ongoing care during pregnancy

As your pregnancy progresses, we will perform regular echocardiograms to monitor how your baby’s heart is developing and whether changes are occurring. This allows our team to tailor our approach to care for your baby’s precise needs. We remain in close and frequent contact with your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) to plan the best delivery options and fetal heart defect treatment for your baby.

We will continue to provide you with ongoing education and support. You’ll have many questions – and we’ll be here to answer them, so you can make the best decisions for your family.

Delivery for babies with diagnosed birth defects

The Fetal Heart team may recommend that you deliver in the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU) at Children’s Hospital ― the first birth facility in the world exclusively for pregnancies complicated by congenital conditions. The SDU is adjacent to the Evelyn and Daniel M. Tabas Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and cardiac operating rooms and is equipped for immediate medical or surgical intervention upon delivery, if necessary. Newborns are in the hands of experts immediately, and parents and baby stay close.

After delivery, your baby will be cared for in the CICU, where he or she will be in the most skilled and caring hands, just steps away from the Special Delivery Unit.

Surgery for congenital heart defects

If your newborn requires heart surgery, the Cardiac Center surgical team is widely recognized for its expertise and extensive experience performing even the most complex operations for congenital heart disease. Our surgical team performs more than 850 pediatric heart surgeries each year, with outcomes that are among the best in the nation

The Fetal Heart Program team

Medical director

Attending cardiologists, CHOP Main

Attending cardiologists, CHOP PA Specialty Care Centers

Attending cardiologists, CHOP NJ Specialty Care Centers

Chief, fetal cardiovascular imaging

Senior fetal cardiac sonographers

Program coordinator

Clinical coordinator

Social worker


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Fetal Heart Program Videos

This suite of videos gives an overview of the The Fetal Heart Program and the defects we treat.

Annual Report 2013

Doctors found a tumor on Tucker’s heart when his mother, Katie, was 20 weeks pregnant. Surgeons at CHOP performed open fetal surgery to remove the tumor, and Tucker, born 14 weeks later, became the first baby to survive the groundbreaking procedure. Learn more in CHOP’s 2013 Annual Report.

Protecting the Brain Before Birth

Learn about the research our Fetal Neuroprotection and Neuroplasticity Program is doing to investigate new therapies to protect the brain before birth in children with congenital heart disease.

Meet Xavier

Born in the SDU after a prenatal diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), Xavier had his first surgery when he was 4 days old. Read Xavier's Story»