The TRUTH About 3D Ultrasound Safety

What is Ultrasound to Begin With? Is 3D/4D Ultrasound More Powerful Than 2D Ultrasound?

2D Ultrasound

“Ultrasound, also called sonography, uses sound waves to develop ultrasound images of what’s going on inside the body. An instrument called a transducer emits high-frequency sound, inaudible to human ears, and then records the echoes as the sound waves bounce back to determine the size, shape, and consistency of soft tissues and organs. This information is relayed in real time to produce images on a computer screen. Ultrasound technologists, or sonographers, have special training in how to perform the test[1]”. 3D ultrasound, 4D ultrasound and HD Live technology all employ the same exact technology as that which is used in standard 2D ultrasonography. The difference lies in the machine’s ability to interpret the information that the transducer is providing to it. 3D, 4D, and HD Live ultrasound images are all constructed by more technologically advanced ultrasound machines[2].

The Stigma of 3D Ultrasound

There is a lot of scrutiny surrounding elective ultrasound, and rightfully so. There are several important factors that should be taken in to consideration when choosing to have a 3D ultrasound. Many people who elect to have these ultrasounds don’t know that you do not have to be a

3D Ultrasound

licensed sonographer to open one of these businesses. Well-meaning people with no training in ultrasound are able to do so and have. This is the root cause of the stigma felt by the medical community towards 3D ultrasound facilities. Your obstetrician does not trust an untrained, pop up shop to take the appropriate safety precautions regarding your ultrasound.

3D Ultrasound with HD Live

Because ultrasound technology has been around for so long, 30 + years, with zero negative side effects to be had, it has been deemed by the general public as “totally safe.” The detail that people seem to forget however, is that, although safe, ultrasound still emits thermal energy. This can result in a transference of thermal energy to the structures being imaged. In the case of 3D Ultrasound (or any prenatal ultrasound, elective or otherwise); this means ultrasound can heat the tissues of the fetus. Therefore, it is extremely important that the person performing the exam is a trained and licensed sonographer. In medical ultrasound, we encounter no changes in temperature that might cause harm or discomfort to the patient[3].

The safety of ultrasound over the course of the past 30 some odd years is, in large part, due to the highly trained sonographers that are operating the machines. At Perfect Timing Ultrasound, all of our services are performed by a credentialed, ARDMS sonographer. ARDMS is the acronym for the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. To even qualify to sit for this licensing exam, one is required to, at a minimum, complete a two year ultrasound associates degree from an accredited school and have 12 months of full time clinical ultrasound experience[4]. Once you have passed the ARDMS exam, you must demonstrate professional development through the completion of 30 CME (continuing medical education) hours every three years. Additionally, you must also renew your credentials annually[5]. I list these requirements as evidence of the extensive training that is necessary to safely operate sonographic equipment to perform ultrasounds within safe parameters.

So What Makes Perfect Timing Different?

Kristen and I are co-owners of Perfect Timing Ultrasound and come from a medical background. We have been thoroughly trained on the importance and implementation of safety standards in medical imaging. Kristen is an ARDMS licensed sonographer with 10 years of experience in OBGYN sonography. She has undergone in-depth training in ultrasound physics, ultrasound implementation, proper technique, and patient care. Therefore, Kristen holds the proper knowledge and training to wield the technology in her hands. As a radiologic technologist with a Bachelor’s degree in science, I also understand the importance of safety standards and patient care in ultrasound. Together, Kristen and I have created an elective ultrasound philosophy with safety at its core. We have met the stigma of this industry head on and shed light on why such opinions exist.

One of the most profound and distinguishing components of our philosophy is that we cherish the first trimester of pregnancy just as much as our clients do. As a rule, we will never utilize Doppler Ultrasound in the first trimester. Doppler Ultrasound is a strong sonographic tool that has many applications. With Doppler ultrasound we can view fetal blood flow and even listen to the fetal heartbeat. These features are amazing, but there is a caveat. Doppler ultrasound operates at a higher frequency than 2D, 3D, 4D and HD Live ultrasound. On an ultrasound machine, Doppler automatically switches to 100% power in order to image and Doppler at the same time. In the medical ultrasound setting, it is against AIUM, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, guidelines to utilize Doppler in the first trimester of pregnancy[6]. This is a safety precaution to protect the rapidly multiplying and very delicate cells of early pregnancy. Frist trimester babies are sensitive to the power packed energy delivered by Doppler ultrasound. With this strict policy, Perfect Timing Ultrasound upholds the standard of care found in the medical setting. Please note that Doppler ultrasound is considered safe by the AIUM to use in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, so long as the person utilizing the technology is, in fact, a trained, licensed sonographer.

Our “No Doppler in the First Trimester” rule is just one example of what makes us different when compared to other elective imaging facilities. Kristen is well trained in understanding and monitoring the emittance and transference of thermal energy from the transducer to the fetus during prenatal ultrasound. She has mastered the skills necessary to prevent focusing the beam on one area of the fetus for too long. She understands that certain fetal structures are more sensitive to thermal energy than others and has acquired the necessary techniques to prevent overheating fetal tissues. These skills cannot be overlooked when it comes to fetal safety in sonography. This knowledge, training and expertise is what sets us apart and is what expectant mothers should weigh heavily when choosing their elective ultrasound provider.

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