High-res ultrasound machines at UK hospital detect fetal heart abnormalities at 12 weeks

British hospital Evelina London has invested £85,000—the equivalent of $112, 418—in a series of high-definition ultrasound scanners that will be able to detect fetal heart abnormalities at 12 weeks, opening the field to the possibility of corrective surgery in the womb, the Evening Standard reported Thursday, July 12.

The SMI Toshiba machines were installed as part of a £1.7-million healthcare project, according to the report, and offer a clear view of a developing baby’s heart and blood vessels. With such a window into the womb, John Simpson, a professor of pediatric and fetal cardiology at the hospital, said doctors will be able to track the movement of blood within the baby’s heart—and two months earlier than previously possible.

“This technique provides enhanced early diagnosis of a heart problem in an unborn baby or confirmation that nothing is wrong, which is hugely reassuring for parents with a high-risk pregnancy,” Simpson told the Standard. 

He said the hospital expects to carry out more than 1,000 scans per year with the new machines, which will be targeted toward pregnant women with a history of heart problems or their older children. 

“The new ultrasound scanning technology is a game-changer for babies diagnosed with heart defects,” Simpson said. “Earlier diagnosis gives us much more time to plan care, to prepare parents for what is ahead and provide them with specialist support.”

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