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Echocardiography for the Pregnant Heart

  • Afari, Henrietta A.1
  • Davis, Esther F.1
  • Sarma, Amy A.1, 2
  • 1 Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 2 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
Published Article
Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine
Springer US
Publication Date
May 28, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s11936-021-00930-5
Springer Nature


Purpose of reviewPregnancy is associated with significant hemodynamic changes, making it a potentially high-risk period for women with underlying cardiovascular disease. Echocardiography remains the preferred modality for diagnosis and monitoring of pregnant women with cardiovascular disease as it is widely available and does not require radiation. This paper reviews the role of echocardiography along the continuum of pregnancy in at-risk patients, with a focus on key cardiac disease states in pregnancy.Recent findingsIn the preconception stage, risk stratification scores such as CARPREG II, ZAHARA and the modified WHO remain central to counseling and planning. As such, echocardiography serves an important role in assessing the severity of pre-existing structural disease. Among women with pre-existing cardiovascular disease who become pregnant—as well as those who develop cardiovascular symptoms during pregnancy—echocardiography is a key imaging tool for assessment of hemodynamic and structural changes and is recommended as the first-line imaging modality when appropriate by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, routine screening intervals during pregnancy for various cardiac lesions are not well defined, resulting in clinical heterogeneity in care.SummaryEchocardiography is the imaging modality of choice for defining, risk stratifying, and monitoring cardiovascular changes throughout pregnancy. Once identified, at-risk patients should receive careful individual counseling and follow-up with a multidisciplinary team. Echocardiography serves as a widely available tool for serial monitoring of pregnant women with cardiovascular disease throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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