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Is Pregnancy Ultrasound Risky?

No one knows the long-term effects of ultrasound use. Many practitioners feel that the technology is perfectly safe since studies of babies and their mothers have not determined any effects. Other practitioners are not so convinced of ultrasound safety and feel that judicious use is advised. It should be remembered that x-rays were in use for 50 years before the public became aware of detrimental effects. DES and thalidomide alsso were deemed safe and were later found to be the cause of cancer, sterility and anomalies.Possibly the greatest risk of overuse of ultrasound technology is that if an ultrasound raises a question of fetal well-being, invasive and high risk procedures and technologies may be instituted which do have clear risks to the mother or her baby.

STUDIES Non-diagnostic ultrasound has demonstrated b8iological effects such as cell heating or thermal effects and cavitational activities using plants and animals. These experiments have had various outcomes and are difficult to equate with human outcomes. Also, diagnostic ultrasound uses far lower intensities. The current epidemiologic data finds no adverse outcomes from ultrasound use. Many researchers believe that the benefits of diagnostic ultrasound outweigh the risks.

Human studies have not documented negative outcomes except for one study which shoed increased fetal activity for the majority of exposed babies when scanned with the Doppler. OVERUSE OF TECHNOLOGY Some consumer groups have questioned the need for ultrasound equipment in doctor offices. They claim that in order to pay for the equipment, physicians will order unnecessary ultrasounds. Not only does this increase the exposure of unnecessary technology, but it also raises the total cost of care and may lead to additional unnecessary and costly interventions. They claim that in order to pay for the equipment, physicians will order unnecessary ultrasounds. Not only does this increase the exposure of unnecessary technology, but it also raises the total cost of care and may lead to additional unnecessary and costly interventions.


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