Detecting heart problems in babies before birth

Published On: Mar 07 2014 01:10:48 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 10 2014 06:20:00 AM EDT
MIAMI, Fla. -

A typical 20-week ultrasound to determine the sex of her baby turned Tina Morton's world upside down.

"They started the scan. They measured everything. Then they scanned over to where her heart was and everything got quiet," Morton recalled.

Her fetus was diagnosed with a complex heart defect.

"We looked at our each other and our almost two-year-old daughter and said, 'How can this happen?"

Morton turned to the specialists at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, who monitored her fetus with advanced cardiac imaging.  They started with echocardiography.

"That is using soundwaves to get images of the heart and make diagnosis of structural and functional abnormalities," explained Dr. Lilliam Valdes-Cruz with Memorial Healthcare.

Ultrasound creates two dimensional images of the heart. Doctors also utilize CT scans and MRI's to learn even more.

" We can either do CT, which has radiation but a short scan, or we can do MRI which is a longer scan but it uses magnets and there's no radiation," explained Dr. Mike McLeary with Memorial Healthcare.

Within days of her birth, Addison underwent surgery and faces at least  one more procedure down the road. Morton says there's no doubt early detection saved her daughters life.

"One step at a time they took us through everything we had to do and let me tell you they're incredible, absolutely incredible," she said tearfully.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly one-percent of or about 40,000 births per year.