Finding a four chamber heart isn't the only thing sonographers should look for on an ultrasound. One doctor has come up with a checklist to make sure a heart defect is caught before the baby is born. Sometimes an operation can be performed while the baby is still in utero or surgeries can be prepared for a procedure as soon as the baby is born.
FROM CBC: Medical breakthroughs don't have to be expensive. An ultrasound specialist in Canada has come up with a new technique to check for heart defects in unborn babies that's made a dramatic difference.
"This is your special book that mommy made for you when you were born." Cezanne Horne and her husband learned mid pregnancy that their daughter had a congenital heart defect...that could have been fatal.
Cezanne Horne / Mother: "The minute she was born everyone who needed to be involved in her care was there. it saved so much time." The Hornes may not have known about Kaylan's condition if it weren't for the sonographer who did Cezanne's ultrasound.
Karen Letourneau says she was always uncomfortable viewing a fetal heart.
Karen Letourneau / Sonographer: Marisa: "That was your greatest fear?"
Karen: "That I would miss an abnormal heart. And that a baby would run into trouble."
So six years ago, Letourneau started asking questions. She talked to radiologists and pediatric cardiologists to get a better sense of what to look for on the screen.
"This is the position I used to accept taking a fetal heart from but I wouldn't anymore." Letourneau developed a simple, but crucial checklist, to follow every time she scans a heart. She calls it back to basics. It goes beyond her mandatory professional procedures which require screening of the heart's four chambers.
And includes sending the mother for a walk up and down stairs if the baby isn't facing the right way for the scan.
"All sonographers in Manitoba are now screening a fetus heart according to the guidelines Karen and her team developed, but are they making a difference?"
Cardiologist Reeni Soni says since Letourneau started this checklist they're now catching almost every heart abnormality before birth.
Dr. Reeni Soni / Pediatric Cardiologist: "The difference is sometimes life or death. Many of these conditions are severe life threatening conditions, that if you don't know ahead of time, if you don't put the appropriate stabilizing medical resources, babies sometimes don't survive."
Letourneau hasn't asked for any funding because her checklist doesn't require any new equipment. "When was the last medical breakthrough you know of that saves babies lives that doesn't cost a penny!"
She hopes to publish a study on the success of her checklist so others around the world will follow it. But for now, knowing children like Kaylan are being saved is enough.
"She made a huge difference in our life and we could never thank her enough."