What is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique used to obtain information about the fetus and its surroundings. Ultrasound techniques employ the use of high frequency sound waves transmitted from the skin's surface through the uterus (womb). Depending on the density of the underlying structures, the sound waves are then returned, producing an image on a small screen.
How Long has Ultrasound Been in Use?
Ultrasound was first employed by the military as a means of locating submarines. The idea was further expanded and used by industry as a means of detecting flaws in dense or solid structures. Ultrasound was adapted for medical use in the early 1960's when it first was used in obstetrics to locate the position of the placenta (afterbirth) and fetus. Today it is possible, because of advances made in the instruments, to learn extremely important information about the fetus and its environment.
Why Should I Have an Ultrasound Exam?
The most common reasons for having an ultrasound exam are to determine the approximate age and position of the baby and to make sure the baby is growing normally.
Age can be determined early in the pregnancy (2 to 3 months) by measuring the length of the baby. Later, at 4 to 7 months, age is derived by measurements of the head and the length of the femur, the long bone inside the thigh. These measurements are then compared to a table that lists averages of normal baby growth.
With the use of ultrasound, the amount of fluid surrounding the baby can be seen as well as the placenta, or afterbirth, and the placenta's position. This information is helpful in determining what kind of delivery you will have (vaginal or cesarean) and whether the baby will need any special medical attention immediately after delivery. (Early in pregnancy, it may be necessary to scan with a special transducer placed in the vagina to see the baby.)
Why Does my Doctor Feel This Procedure is Necessary?
The most common reasons for a doctor to request ultrasound are:
- To determine your due date through measurements of the fetus. Ultrasound dating has been proven to be more accurate than menstrual dating, especially if done early in pregnancy.
- To confirm an early pregnancy.
- To evaluate fetal growth.
- To determine if there is a normal amount of amniotic fluid.
- To observe fetal movement and heart activity.
- To select the best site for amniocentesis.
- To survey fetal anatomy
Is Ultrasound Safe?
No confirmed biological effects on patients or instrument operators caused by exposure at intensities typical of present diagnostic ultrasound instruments have ever been reported. Although the possibility exists that such biological effects may be indicated in the future, current data indicate that the benefits to patients of the prudent use of diagnostic ultrasound outweigh the risk, if any, that may be present.
Will it Hurt?
There is little or no pain involved in an ultrasound examination of your abdomen although there may be some discomfort from maintaining a full bladder. A gel-like material is applied to your abdomen and the instrument is then placed on the skin surface to provide better contact between the transducer and the skin. This gel may feel slightly cold and, even though it wipes off easily, it is a good idea to wear clothing that is easily washable.
What is the Sex of the Baby?
Sometimes it is possible to see the sex of the baby and sometimes it is not. If the baby is lying in an inconvenient position, the baby's sex cannot be determined.
Does An Ultrasound Examination Guarantee a Normal Baby?
The ability to detect abnormalities depends on the size of the abnormality and the position of the baby in the uterus. Therefore, it is possible that some abnormalities may not be detected.
Is There any Preparation Necessary Prior to the Test?
Please arrive with a full bladder. It is helpful to have a full bladder prior to ultrasound. Therefore, drinking 4 to 6 glasses of water one hour before and not voiding just prior to the procedure is wise. This is found to be extremely helpful in that the full bladder helps raise the uterus out of the pelvis for more complete visualization. It has also been found that because sound passes easily through fluid, a more clearly defined picture of the early pregnancy is made possible.
How Long Will it Take?
The average obstetrical ultrasound exam at the Regional Perinatal Center takes between fifteen and thirty minutes. Complicated cases and multiple gestations take up to an hour or more. There are factors that limit the quality of the exam including maternal size and the position and gestational age of the baby. These can also lead to an increase in the length of the exam.
Who Can I Bring with Me for My Ultrasound?
You may bring no more than two adults to watch the exam with you. We prefer that this includes the baby's father or some other significant person. We prefer that children under the age of 10 not attend.
- In accordance with statements issued by the Food & Drug Administration, the only approved use of ultrasound if for medical diagnostic purposes. The use of ultrasound for entertainment purposes is not approved.
- It is the policy of the Regional Perinatal Center that the release of videotaped ultrasound examination, except as part of a medical record, is not allowed, and patients are not permitted to videotape their ultrasound examination. Every effort will be made to provide each patient with a photo of her baby.
- It is very important that you arrive on time for your ultrasound appointment. If you are more than 15 minutes late, it may be necessary for us to reschedule your ultrasound appointment.
- If you will be late or unable to keep your appointment, please call the Regional Perinatal Center at 315-464-4458.
About Our Sonographers
Lisa M. Allen, BS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, FAIUM
Lisa graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (1990). She has earned her credentials through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) in the specialties of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Abdomen and Neurosonography. In addition, she is a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) and has earned the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) credential in the field of Fetal Echocardiography. Lisa has earned her competency to perform first trimester nuchal translucency and nasal bone risk assessment evaluations through the Fetal Medicine Foundation and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Foundations Nuchal Translucency Education and Quality Review Program (NTQR). Lisa has been employed at the Regional Perinatal Center since 1992 and currently holds the job title of Ultrasound Coordinator. Lisa has held Senior Member status with the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) since 1998 and was elevated to Fellow in 2007. She has earned the title of Advanced Practice Sonographer (APS) through the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS). She has authored several articles and publications in the field of Prenatal Sonography.
Tammy Lohnes, RN, RDMS
Tammy is a full time Sonographer at the Regional Perinatal Center. After graduating from Crouse Hospital School of Nursing, she began working in the Labor and Delivery unit at Crouse Hospital where she was employed from 1988 to 1999. In the eleven years she spent at Crouse, she assisted with the care and management of both low and high risk obstetrical patients. In 1999 Tammy obtained a position at the Regional Perinatal Center as a high risk obstetrical nurse. It was here that she found an interest in Sonography. After completing a full year of Clinical Internship training and obtaining the required Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits in Ultrasound Physics and Obstetric and Gynecologic principles, Tammy successfully passed the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) boards in February 2005. Tammy has met the qualifications to participate in the Nuchal Translucency Quality Review Program (NTQR) through the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Tammy is currently registered with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and is a member of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS).
Kathleen Williams, RDMS, RDCS
Katie comes to the Regional Perinatal Center with 24 years experience in the field of diagnostic medical Sonography. Twelve years of ultrasound have been dedicated to obstetric and gynecology ultrasound and 12 years to ultrasound examinations including OB/GYN, abdominal, small parts, carotid duplex, leg venous duplex and adult echocardiography. Katie attained her Associate in Applied Science degree in 1980. She is a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) in the specialty of OB/GYN and a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) in the specialty of Adult Echocardiography. Katie has maintained an active status with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography since 1989. She is a member of the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Katie has achieved competency in Nuchal Translucency Measurement through Nuchal Translucency Quality Review Program (NTQR) from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Katie joined the Regional Perinatal Center team in July 2006.