Possible Hazards of Imaging and Doppler Ultrasound in Obstetrics


  • This paper was presented at the Royal Society of Medicine Forum on Maternity and the Newborn: Ultrasonography in Obstetrics, April 17, 1985.


ABSTRACT: Cell damage is a natural part of fetal development, and the embryo and fetus have some self-repair ability. Studies indicate that ultrasound imaging and Doppler applications do not harm by heating where circulation exists to dissipate heat. The shortness of the ultrasound pulses militates against cell damage by cavitation. Ultrasound scans are often recommended at 16 to 18 weeks LMP, when the most vulnerable fetal organ is the forebrain, or at 32 to 34 weeks LMP, when the fetal cerebellum is vulnerable. Defects in vision or heaving are possible. Negative animal experiments cannot offer reassurance to those concerned about damaging effects with low rates of occurrence such as 1 in 1000 or less. When considering possible links between ultrasound and childhood cancers or development defects, risk levels cannot be assessed until a large, adequately designed, randomized controlled trial with sufficient follow-up is conducted.