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Risks of Ultrasound Scanning

Sunday, 23 November 2008 17:56

by Beverley Beech

  • Davies:   16 perinatal deaths compared with 4 perinatal deaths in the control group

  • Lorenz:   Preterm labour was more than doubled in the ultrasound group--52% compared with 25% in the controls.

I do not agree with the statement that "a lot of embryos have been exposed to ultrasound over the last 25 years with no documented ill effects." Lieberskind's research indicated changes in cell structure that persisted over 10 generations and although researchers attempted to rubbish the research it was repeated by other researchers, and now we have research from Ireland that also shows affected cells.

There is a widespread assumption that ultrasound is beneficial, yet there is no evidence that infant outcomes have been improved by routine ultrasound examinations. Researchers have enthusiastically focused on what ultrasound could find but have paid little or no attention to the potential adverse long-term effects. As a result, despite ultrasound being enthusiastically used over the last 30 years, there is no good research that addresses the anxieties that ultrasound may be responsible for dyslexia, learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

The Saari Kempaainen study revealed that 150 women were diagnosed as having placenta previa; when they got to term only 4 women actually had it. In the control arm the women who were not exposed to ultrasound also had 4 women whose placenta praevias were discovered when they went into labour. Both sets of women had caesarean sections and there was no difference in outcomes. The researchers did not investigate the amount of stress a diagnosis of placenta praevia could have caused in the 146 misdiagnosed women. This research shows that early diagnosis of placenta praevia is irrelevant and a complete waste of time, yet doctors and midwives persist in telling women they have low lying placentas.

A study by Jahn revealed that out of 2,378 pregnancies, only 58 of 183 growth retarded babies were diagnosed before birth, and 45 fetuses were wrongly diagnosed as being growth retarded when they were not. Only 28 of the 72 severely growth-retarded babies were detected before birth. Furthermore, the diagnosed babies were more likely to be delivered by caesarean section (44.4%) compared with 17.4% for the babies who were not small for dates. If a baby actually had IUGR the section rate varied hugely according to whether it was diagnosed before birth (73.1% sectioned) or not (30.4%). Preterm delivery was 5 times more frequent in those whose IUGR was diagnosed before birth than those who were not. The average diagnosed pregnancy was 2.3 weeks shorter than the undiagnosed one. The admission rate to intensive care was 3 times higher for the diagnosed babies. This important study provides further evidence that scans are not benefiting babies or those mothers who were subjected to caesarean sections.

This Article was originally printed in Midwifery E-News at:   http://www.midwiferytoday.com/enews/enews1n31.asp
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  1. Davies JA, Gallivan S, Spencer JA   Randomised controlled trial of Doppler ultrasound screening of placental perfusion during pregnancy   Lancet 1992 (Nov 28);   340 (8831):   1299-1303
  2. Jahn A, Razum O, Berle P   Routine screening for intrauterine growth retardation in Germany: low sensitivity and questionable benefit for diagnosed cases
  3. Liebeskind D, Bases R, Elequin F   Diagnostic ultrasound: effects on the DNA and growth patterns of animal cells   Radiology 1979 (Apr);   131 (1):   177-184
  4. Lorenz RP, Comstock CH, Bottoms SF   Randomized prospective trial comparing ultrasonography and pelvic examination for preterm labor surveillance   Am J Obstet Gynecol 1990 (Jun);   162 (6):   1603-1607
  5. Olsen O and Clausen JE   Routine ultrasound dating has not been shown to be more accurate than the calendar method   British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1997 (Nov);   104:   1221-1222
  6. Saari-Kemppainen A, Karjalainen O, Ylostalo P   Ultrasound screening and perinatal mortality: controlled trial of systematic one-stage screening in pregnancy. The Helsinki Ultrasound Trial   Lancet 1990 (Aug 18);   336 (8712):   387-391
  7. Taskinen H, Kyyronen P, Hemminki K   Effects of ultrasound, shortwaves, and physical exertion on pregnancy outcome in physiotherapists   J Epidemiol Community Health. 1990 (Sep);   44 (3):   196-201