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Sometimes a heart defect is found before a baby is born. If your healthcare provider finds anything unusual during a routine prenatal ultrasound, you and your baby may need further testing. For example, a fetal echocardiogram uses sound waves to create pictures of the baby’s heart.

Other heart defects are found soon after a baby is born. For example, cyanotic CHD is often detected by pulse oximetry. The simple, painless test uses sensors on the fingers or toes to find out if oxygen levels are too low. Sometimes, congenital heart disease isn’t diagnosed until later in life.

Tests that can help diagnose CHD in newborns, children or adults include:

  • Physical exam: During an exam, a healthcare provider will listen to the heart for any abnormal sounds.
  • Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray takes pictures of the inside of your chest to reveal any structural abnormalities.
  • Electrocardiogram: Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) measures the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram (echo) uses ultrasound to create images of the heart’s valves and chambers.
  • Heart catheterization: A healthcare provider can tell how well your heart is pumping and circulating blood by performing a heart catheterization. It’s also called cardiac catheterization or coronary angiography.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI for heart disease can create detailed pictures of your heart.


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