To compare echocardiography with clinical examination, radiography, and electrocardiography for the detection of congenital heart defects (CHD) a four year prospective study was carried out in 166 neonates with selected congenital gastrointestinal malformations (anorectal anomaly, tracheo-oesophageal fistula, duodenal atresia, exomphalos, and gastroschisis). Routine examination and investigation detected CHD in 16 neonates. Using echocardiography CHD was diagnosed in 38 (23%) neonates of whom five had two gastrointestinal malformations: in 22/57 (39%) with a tracheo-oesophageal fistula, 10/67 (15%) with an anorectal anomaly, 4/20 (20%) with exomphalos, 6/20 (30%) with duodenal atresia, and 1/7 with gastroschisis. A significantly higher incidence of CHD in neonates with gastrointestinal malformations was diagnosed using echocardiography (23%) compared with routine examination and investigation (9%). Early diagnosis of CHD allowed a unified approach to be presented to the family.
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