Monday, October 19, 2009

3-D Ultrasounds

Everyone wants a 3-D ultrasound. They want to know the sex, sure, and that can easily be determined at the anatomy scan which is best done at 20 weeks. It is often accomplished at the obstetricians office or at a specialist's ( perinatalogist ) if age, medical condition and insurance allow. The anatomy scan is the medical practioner's gold standard for the fetus's wellbeing in utero. It visualizes just that, the anatomy, and shows that all the organ systems are working, in the right place, doing the right thing. It reassures and it also allows for evaluation that may need follow-up and more surveillance.

Keepsake ultrasounds or 3-D/ 4-D ultrasounds are done in retail spaces. Insurance doesn't pay and they charge alot. They show facial features so you can go home and frame a picture of your fetus and let everyone know just who junior or juniorette looks like. This is for entertainment and not for diagnostic purposes. This is not a medical ultrasound.

There are some objections that lay people may not readily accept. Who is reading these ultrasounds? Are the "readers" diagnosing? Are they falsely reassuring? Is the retail offering forcing obstetricians to compete in a venue which is clearly not medical in orientation? Is this crossing the line? Or is the medical community forcing the seriousness of an issue which really doesn't exist. Is entertainment ultrasound bad? Is there a limit to how much ultrasonography is safe?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has discouraged the use of ultrasonography for non-medical reasons: these ultrasounds that are considered keepsake photography or videography. They believe it is contrary to responsible medical practice. The USFDA also is opposed to entertainment videography and has the authority to regulate the distribution of ultrasound equipment. But there are few laws and even less oversight and true regulation and hence, retail boutiques are in business and often don't even require a medical release. Anyone can go in and have an ultrasound and who knows if it is done appropriately or if it isn't going to open that proverbial can of worms to conjecture and misinformation and worry or bliss that may not in outcome be what is then expected or promised?

Please ask your medical provider for their slant on this rapidly expanding use of ultrasonogrphy for entertainment or keepsake purposes and then make an informed choice for your family. Please be tolerant of their judicious use of ultrasonography for medical purposes and don't expect a 3-D or 4-D sonogram if it isn't medically indicated. Detailed ultrasound has a place and is offered for good reasons by qualified providers. It always comes down to "Buyer Beware", no matter what we are buying.