New developments in fetal screening and diagnostic testing are giving us a peek into the future of your unborn baby. Using the newest, most advanced tools, combined with years of experience, the team at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital are able to have an unprecedented look at a baby before it is even born, and provide life saving treatments.
Using the information learned through advanced imaging tools, we are able to more accurately diagnosis the condition of your baby and determine the best course of treatment.
If fetal surgery is required, we use innovative treatments such as fetoscopic fetal surgery and tissue laser ablation, which provide an unprecedented level of care and treatment, often with minimal impact on the mother and baby.
Some of the new diagnostic technologies you may experience at the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute include:
Level II Ultrasound
This detailed 3d and 4d high-resolution ultrasound allows for a targeted examination of the fetus. Level II ultrasounds are used during the anatomy screen to look at the organs, including the umbilical cord, growth of the fetus, amniotic fluid levels, the location of the placenta, and the fetal heart rate.
A level II ultrasound can take up to two hours when screening fetal abnormalities. We can use the ultrasound to examine lung growth, urine production, and track a baby’s progress before and after fetal surgery.
Learn more about ultrasound here.
The fetal MRI provides the doctors with an intricately detailed image of the fetus as well as a global view of the baby within the placenta. The MRI uses magnetic fields and sound waves to create 2D and 3D images.
The MRI is not harmful to the mother or baby and usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete. We often use the MRI to look very carefully at the fetal brain and to measure lung volumes in babies who have small lungs.
Fetal Echo (Echocardiogram)
Our Fetal Heart Program teams performs fetal echocardiograms. This is a detailed ultrasound that focuses on the intrauterine growth and development of the fetal heart and great vessels. This test can be done to rule out any fetal anomalies or abnormal fetal heart rhythms. We also use fetal echocardiography to understand how blood flow in the lungs develops over time. Fetal echocardiograms are routinely done in the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital Dallas Heart Center and interpreted by one of our pediatric cardiologists.
Genetic testing is an important component of fetal diagnosis and therapy, and the technology behind it is rapidly evolving. The gold standard prenatal genetic tests remain the karyotype and chromosomal microarray, which are able to diagnose or rule out common chromosome disorders such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13) as well as more rare microdeletion and microduplication syndromes. We offer these tests through invasive procedures such as amniocentesis.
We also offer Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), a screen which can help identify pregnancies at increased risk for chromosome disorders such as Down syndrome, trisomy 18, trisomy 13, and sex chromosome abnormalities. While not diagnostic, this screen is performed on a sample of blood from a pregnant mother and can give strong insight into a baby’s chromosome makeup in a non-invasive manner.
The decision of whether to pursue prenatal genetic testing and which test is right is a complicated one. For this reason, the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute has a dedicated genetic counselor available to help families understand how the medical issues in their baby could be related to an underlying genetic cause, as well as the pros and cons of each testing option.