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223 N. Van Dien Avenue Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Mailing Address:
The Valley Hospital
223 N. Van Dien Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Evaluating Tiny Hearts Before Birth


The Valley Hospital is the first hospital in New Jersey to receive accreditation in fetal echocardiography

Highly regarded for its cardiac services, The Valley Hospital is steadily growing in its reputation for taking care of the tiniest hearts.

Valley’s Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recently achieved a three-year accreditation in the subspecialty of fetal echocardiography by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM).  Valley is the first hospital in New Jersey to receive this accreditation, which attests to the safety, effectiveness, and high quality of fetal echocardiograms performed here and to Valley’s commitment to patient care excellence.  

Fetal echocardiography is the use of non-invasive ultrasound techniques to assess the structure and function of an unborn baby’s heart and to aid physicians in analyzing and diagnosing congenital heart defects. Valley’s AIUM accreditation follows a rigorous evaluation of the Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s practices, personnel, facilities, record-keeping, quality assurance, and the presentation of several patient cases.  The center’s other prenatal ultrasonography services are also accredited by the AIUM. 

“Achieving accreditation in fetal echocardiography enables our multidisciplinary team to provide continuity of care all in one place for expectant mothers and their unborn babies, from the time they come to us for consultation through their prenatal ultrasound evaluations and counseling, and then on to the time these babies are born,” says Gail Matthews, M.D., medical director of the Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, who is board-certified in OB/GYN and maternal-fetal medicine.  “If a fetus has a heart abnormality, we collaborate with other physicians and specialists, including our maternal-fetal medicine specialists, medical geneticist, and genetic counselors, the mother’s obstetrician, pediatric cardiologists, and our Valley neonatologists to provide optimal care for mom and baby.”

Ultrasonographers who perform fetal echocardiograms at the Valley Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have at least 10 years of experience in their field and have undergone training in fetal echocardiography of fetuses as young as 16 weeks’ gestation. 

This specialized education is crucial because fetal echocardiograms can be especially challenging to perform, explains maternal-fetal medicine specialist Carolyn Zelop, M.D., director of ultrasound and perinatal research at Valley and an adjunct professor of OB/GYN at NYU School of Medicine. 

“You can ask an adult to lie still for an echocardiogram, but a fetus is always in motion, with a heart the size of a nickel to a half-dollar depending on the age,” says Dr. Zelop, who is board-certified in OB/GYN and maternal-fetal medicine, with special expertise in fetal echocardiography.  “Extreme clarity of the images in mapping out the heart’s anatomy is necessary to making a definitive diagnosis.” 

Valley’s maternal-fetal medicine specialists utilize a team approach to providing follow-up care for unborn babies who are diagnosed with a heart problem.  Advice and counseling for parents is offered following each echocardiogram.  Referrals to a pediatric cardiologist or pediatric cardiac surgeon can be made if necessary.  If the baby will be born at Valley, the maternal-fetal medicine team coordinates delivery plans with the hospital’s neonatologists.  

Many women who come to the Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine are carrying a high-risk pregnancy, either due to their own medical condition, the health of the fetus, multiple fetuses, or a risk or history of preterm birth or other complication during pregnancy. 

“Women with low-risk pregnancies also come here from all over the region due to our center’s excellent reputation for quality prenatal ultrasound services, our family-centered care, and our state-of-the-art technology, including 3-D and 4-D sonograms,” notes Bonnie Lipnick, RDMS, MA, supervisor of ultrasonography.  “Our team performs sonograms for approximately 70 women each day.” 

The Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s ultrasonography suite is open for appointments Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Patients must be referred by their physician. For more information, call 201-291-6321 or visit 

The Valley Hospital’s quality distinctions include four consecutive “A” ratings for patient safety from The Leapfrog Group; recognition by Healthgrades as one of America’s 100 Best hospitals for cardiac surgery and orthopedic surgery; three consecutive Magnet designations for nursing excellence; the 2013 Women’s Choice Award for being voted one of America’s Best Hospitals for Patient Experience by women, and recognition by the 2014 Women’s Choice Awards as one of America’s Best Breast Centers and one of America’s Best Hospitals for Heart Care.

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