Our Approach to Diagnosis

Our whole focus is newborns, children and teens. Our providers are board-certified in pediatrics, which means that they have extra training and years of experience caring for kids. We only do tests that we feel are medically needed and avoid unnecessary testing.

We pioneered the use of noninvasive procedures to diagnose and treat heart conditions. If your child is born with a complex heart defect, we will work with you to create a personalized repair plan, supported and informed by the most advanced imaging techniques. Whenever possible, we choose noninvasive methods that use low or no radiation, such as echocardiography and cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Along with giving your child state-of-the-art care, we will take time to fully explain your child’s condition and answer any questions you have. Read more about our promise to provide family-centered care.

Early detection

The heart doctors (pediatric cardiologists) in our Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment Center provide early, accurate prenatal (before birth) diagnosis and care for congenital heart disease and defects. We find problems with your developing baby as early as possible so you have more time to make decisions and plan care. By combining our knowledge with the latest technologies, we are able to find and diagnose congenital heart defects as early as 14 weeks’ gestation (in the womb).

We offer prenatal diagnosis and management at 7 sites in Washington and Alaska.

Need a diagnosis?

  • Make an appointment.
  • If you would like a referral to the Heart Center, talk with your child’s doctor.

Need a second opinion?

We are available to provide second opinions. If you need a second opinion, please talk with your provider and ask for a referral. We will work with you to understand what you are looking for in the visit. Afterward, we will partner with you and the referring provider to determine next steps. Make an appointment.

Diagnostic Tools

Learn more about the tools and technologies the doctor may use to accurately diagnose your child:

  • Cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a specially trained heart doctor (cardiologist) inserts small plastic tubes (catheters) into veins and arteries to diagnose or treat a heart condition. The doctor guides the catheters to the right places using X-ray and ultrasound images. Seattle Children’s cardiologists are leaders in providing safe and effective diagnostic catheterization for newborns, children and adolescents. Learn more.

  • CT is a special type of X-ray used to make pictures of the body’s tissue and structure. Cardiac CT is a noninvasive test that is used to create a 3-dimensional picture of your child’s heart.

  • Our Cardiac Genetics Program offers consultation, evaluation and counseling before and after your child is born. A medical genetic specialist and a genetic counselor will talk with you about your risk of having a child with a heart defect or genetic condition related to a heart defect. This information may be helpful in deciding about any future pregnancies and your healthcare in the future. Learn more about the Cardiac Genetics Program.

  • Cardiac MRI is a noninvasive test that creates moving and still pictures of the heart and major blood vessels. It uses radio waves, magnets and a computer instead of radiation. It is usually used to verify or clarify information gathered by other tests. Depending on your child’s age, they might be given medicine to put them to sleep (anesthesia) before an MRI.

  • Chest X-rays are noninvasive tests that provide pictures of the heart. An X-ray is a form of energy that can pass through your child’s bone and tissue to create an image.

    The radiology staff at Seattle Children’s has been trained to minimize stress before, during and after testing by distracting your child. Smaller bodies often need less radiation to get a good image. The dose of radiation varies with each patient and type of exam. Our team uses age and weight to determine dosage. The radiation doses given at Seattle Children’s are consistently lower than the guidelines recommended by the American College of Radiology.

  • Echocardiography is a test that uses ultrasound waves to make a picture of the heart. It can show the direction the blood is flowing and reveal the heart’s internal structure. A fetal echocardiogram is an ultrasound image of an unborn baby’s heart. Learn more.

  • An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart. It is used to check if the heart rate and rhythm are normal. Learn more.

  • During an EP study, a heart doctor (cardiologist) guides small plastic tubes (catheters) to the heart through the blood vessels of the leg to read the heart’s electrical signals. An EP study is often used to find the cause of an abnormal heart rhythm. It is sometimes used to determine whether a child needs a pacemaker or defibrillator. Learn more.

  • An event monitor is a noninvasive test. The event monitor is a small device about the size of a deck of cards that is designed to record the heart’s rhythm. It is used to track symptoms such as fast heart rhythms, dizziness and chest pain. When your child feels symptoms and pushes a button on the event monitor, it records the rhythm. Learn more.

  • An exercise test is a noninvasive way to measure how the heart responds to work. This test can show if the blood supply to the heart gets lower during exercise. Learn more.

  • A Holter monitor is a noninvasive test. It is a portable electrocardiogram (ECG) that your child wears for 24 hours. It records how fast or slow the heart beats throughout the day and night while your child is playing, exercising and sleeping. It helps track symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, fainting and fast heart rhythms or skipping beats (palpitations). Learn more.