Congenital Heart Disease | Diagnosis & Tests


How is congenital heart disease diagnosed?

Severe heart problems usually are diagnosed during pregnancy during an ultrasound test or right after the baby is born. Less severe heart problems may not be found until the child is older, or even in adulthood.

What about tests?

Several tests can show what kind of heart disease your baby has. Tests can also help your doctor see how well the heart is working. Here are some tests your baby might have:

  • ECG (short for "electrocardiogram"): An ECG shows the heartbeat as a line tracing. It measures electrical activity in the heart.
  • Pulse oximetry: This test shows how much oxygen is in the baby's blood.
  • Echocardiogram: This test gives the doctor an ultrasound "picture" of the baby's heart.
  • Chest X-ray: This can show how well the heart is growing and if your baby's lungs have fluid in them.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This test uses dye in the heart to give the doctor a clear picture of the heart problem.


Caring for Infants with Congenital Heart Disease and Their Families by RB Saenz, M.D., DK Beebe, M.D., and LC Triplett, M.D. (American Family Physician April 01, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/00