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 Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center 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 2 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.
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 Echocardiogram (ECG)
A fetal echocardiogram 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 Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center Dallas Heart Center and interpreted by one of our pediatric cardiologists.
Genetic testing is a rapidly developing technology in fetal diagnosis and therapy. Although the gold standard test is the karyotype, which looks for large pieces of missing chromosome, microarray technology is rapidly becoming the test by which we look for tiny pieces of missing genetic material. We also offer Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), this new testing method, can detect chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13) with an up to 99 percent accuracy rate. The test can also determine a baby’s sex chromosome makeup.
For certain birth defects or if a baby has multiple anatomic abnormalities, we usually recommend genetic screening by karyotype. This is usually performed by sampling some of the amniotic fluid and examining the genetic material in the fetal cells from the fluid. This is an optional test, but sometimes it can be reassuring that a birth defect is not part of a known genetic syndrome.
Whatever the findings, the St. Louis Fetal Care Institute always offers genetic counselling from our dedicated genetic counselor to understand how the fetal diagnoses could be related to any genetic problems.