Do Calcium Deposits on the Heart Point to Downs?

QUESTION

Dear Ms Ultrasound,
My ultrasound technician saw a calcium deposit in my baby's heart. He said this is a possible sign of Down Syndrome! We refused the triple test so should he have even told us? We are only 25; should we be worried?

ANSWER

Hi,
I have had several questions in the last year about calcium deposits in the heart. The last one ended up to be nothing. Sometimes the angle of the transducer (camera they rub over your tummy) can create an artifact looking like a calcification. Sometimes it is a calcification which can suggest a number of things.

Being 25 does decrease your risk of Down Syndrome, but does not eliminate the possibility.

In our facility, a level II ultrasound would be scheduled and done by a perinatalogist, a doctor who specializes in higher risk pregnancies. He/she would do a very detailed ultrasound and then talk to you about the results. If something was found, you would be counseled on options, like genetic counseling and amniocentesis.

I am somewhat confused at why you would refuse a simple blood test (triple screen). The more you know about your unborn child, the better care the fetus can get. Your child may be perfectly fine! But please know, when a fetus has problem that is identified before a child is born, the physician can be prepared in the delivery room with a team of specialists. Or you might need to deliver at a different facility, one that has a neonatal intensive care unit. You can be closely monitored during the pregnancy and if the fetus gets in trouble, an early delivery may be decided upon. You significantly improve care for your unborn child by becoming an informed parent.

With respect to an amniocentesis; this is an invasive procedure, and many women choose not to have this because there are risks. A blood test and an ultrasound are both basically no risk tests that can make a difference between a poor outcome and a good outcome for your child. (Knowledge equates to making informed decisions.)

The technician seems to have spoken out of turn by telling you about a problem with your child, not because you refused the triple test, but because it is not his place. This information should come from your doctor.

Hope I have shed some light on the possibilities. Remember, this could very well be nothing, but you will need further tests to confirm or deny any problems. I would love to follow your progress, so if you get a chance let me know your next steps and results.

-- Jane, RDMS

Jane Foley

Jane Foley has worked as a Sonographer (Ultrasound Technologist) since 1979. Jane has lived and worked in many parts of the world including Saudi Arabia. She is a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or RDMS. She pulls a wealth of information from her experience in the field of Radiology and her interactions with such a broad cross-section of cultures she has visited. She now makes her home on the island of Maui with her English husband, Michael.