Three and four dimensional ultrasound technology provides an expectant mother with the first visual photograph of her child. Ultrasounds involve the use of high-frequency sound waves to create images. Three dimensional ultrasound is a medical ultrasound providing three dimensional images of the fetus. These images are animated at a rapid pace to produce a 4D ultrasound. Experts have weighed the pros and cons of 3D/4D ultrasounds and the risk is minimal to the fetus. Two dimensional ultrasounds and 3D/4D ultrasounds use the same frequency of wavelengths to conduct the ultrasound, making the 3D/4D ultrasound no more risky than a regular 2D.
The actual 3D/4D ultrasounds may last up to 30 minutes. Physicians who perform 3D/4D ultrasounds will not likely go past 30 minutes due to the increase of ultrasound waves in the extended time, the longer the ultrasound the more wave exposure the fetus is subjected to. Since doctors to do not know the side effects of prolonged exposure, doctors limit their sessions to be safe. Three- and four-dimensional ultrasounds only have the capability to print out one or two pictures at a time, so if the ultrasound technician sees a problem on the 3D/4D imaging, they will switch back to 2D to print out continuous pictures and investigate the source of the problem.
FDA sets the intensity of ultrasound waves and the ultrasound machines are programmed to reflect those standards. If the ultrasound machine begins to malfunction or go past the FDA standards, it will automatically shut off, or give an error message. Ultrasound machines are used to hear the fetal heartbeat after 12 weeks of gestation because higher intensity waves are used to detect the heartbeat and focus in on specific organs. FDA evaluates the intensity of the ultrasound waves to ensure the safety of the fetus. Ultrasound waves create heat; the FDA has completed many studies to ensure this heat cannot be felt by the fetus.
There is more than one report of a slight increase in left-handedness in boys whose mothers have received 3D ultrasounds. Left-handedness does not qualify as a medical effect according to the FDA. In the 30 years that ultrasounds have been used, there are no reported medical defects or medical issues contributed to the 3D/4D ultrasounds. Medical studies show no increased risk of a 3D/4D ultrasound in comparison to a 2D ultrasound. Two dimensional ultrasound pose no documented risks to the fetus or the mother.
To help reduce the mild risks associated with 3D/4D ultrasounds be sure to have a physician or a certified ultrasound tech who is familiar with 3D/4D ultrasounds. Most states do not require that 3D/4D ultrasound centers employ certified technicians. Limit your 3D/4D ultrasounds to once a trimester, if the physician requires you to have frequent ultrasounds, use 2D ultrasounds.
Slowly, 3D/4D ultrasounds are replacing 2D ultrasounds. Many hospitals throughout the United States offer 3D/4D ultrasounds as a courtesy to patients. As of mid-2009, 3D ultrasounds are not yet covered by flexible spending accounts, but may soon be as more medical evidence shows the benefits of having a 3D/4D ultrasound. Since 3D/4D ultrasounds are effective in determining heart anomalies in a fetus, it’s expected to be covered by health insurance in the future. Medical studies show that 3D/4D ultrasounds will play a role in neurological and behavioral testing of the fetus to help diagnose or rule out cerebral palsy.