Treatments & Therapies

Fine ultrasound – treatment, effect and risks

Fine ultrasound

As part of the prenatal diagnosis, an examination of the child in the womb, further diagnostics may be necessary. This is done using fine ultrasound , a special sonographic examination that enables the doctor to investigate any signs of a developmental disorder in the child or physical abnormalities.

What is fine ultrasound?

Regular ultrasound examinations are now firmly established in pregnancy diagnostics and are also written down in the maternity guidelines. It is different with fine ultrasound, also known as organ ultrasound , organ screening , sonographic fine diagnostics or malformation ultrasound .

The different names already give the best indication of the objective: organs and organ structures of the unborn child are imaged with the help of this procedure and checked for irregularities or malformations. A fine ultrasound is much more detailed in its results and is carried out with a particularly high-resolution device. The examination, for which a pregnant woman has to calculate around two hours, is carried out on the abdominal wall of the expectant mother, as with normal sonography.

However, only doctors who have been specially trained to use these devices, such as gynecologists and radiologists , are allowed to carry out these diagnostics . Since this is a special examination, the health insurance companies do not easily cover the costs. Most require a gynecological report that provides a clear indication as to why such an examination is necessary. A heart defect , for example, which makes immediate surgery unavoidable immediately after birth and for which appropriate precautions must be taken.

Function, effect & goals

If necessary, a fine ultrasound is carried out between the 19th and 22nd week of pregnancy, in the second trimester, should the regular ultrasound examination reveal an abnormality, for example.

The examination proceeds in the same way as with a conventional ultrasound: contact gel is applied to the expectant mother’s abdomen , after which the doctor moves the transducer over the abdominal wall. The transducer sends ultrasound waves into the uterus . The returning echo enables the depiction of the child’s organs and organ structures. With the help of this special examination, the experienced doctor can see whether the child’s organs are present and have developed appropriately at the time.

Developmental disorders and physical peculiarities can be determined or ruled out in this way. This organ screening is recommended by gynecologists for certain indications. This includes couples who already have a sick child. In the case of pre-existing conditions of the parents, which under certain circumstances can influence the development of a child, such as diabetes . For hereditary diseases and congenital heart defects in the family. If the expectant mother is known to be taking drugs and if she is a smoker . Or in women who have been exposed to strong radiation.

Pregnant women (from the age of 34) and women who have become pregnant by means of artificial insemination are also often advised to have a fine ultrasound diagnosis just to be on the safe side. In particular, the main focus of such an examination is the development of the internal organs, the limbs, the brain , the face and the spine . Defects and malformations can be detected at an early stage using this diagnostic option. A spina bifida , an open spinal cord canal, becomes visible in this way. This is important because, depending on the severity of the closure disorder, the operation must be performed within 24 to 48 hours after birth.

Heart defects are also easier to detect, such as white spots, also known as the golf ball phenomenon. These are point-like compressions that occur particularly in the left ventricle. Another focus is on the gastrointestinal tract so that a possible intestinal obstruction is not overlooked. This also applies to the kidney and urinary tract in order to detect malformations or cysts in good time. The limbs of the unborn child are examined for shortening, special positions and multi-fingeredness .

When examining the head , the size is taken into account, as well as the development of the cerebral chamber. As part of such an examination, it is also possible to discover a cleft lip and palate at an early stage . The aim of organ screening is a general clarification of the developmental status of the unborn child in the second trimester of pregnancy. The assessment of the ultrasound images takes place after the examination and is discussed with the parents-to-be.

Chromosomal abnormalities are what cannot be seen in the fine ultrasound. So-called sonographic soft markers indicate that a chromosomal peculiarity could be present. To gain certainty, the doctor treating you will recommend further diagnostic measures, such as an amniocentesis or a chorionic villus biopsy . This is a test to unequivocally identify chromosomal abnormalities such as those found in Down syndrome .

Risks, side effects & dangers

For both the mother and the unborn child, the fine ultrasound examination is just as safe as the normal ultrasound examination. Nothing is known about side effects either.

However, the informative value of an organ ultrasound depends on many factors. The quality of the device plays a central role. The same applies to the experience of the doctor who is conducting the examination. The amount of amniotic fluid is also not insignificant. The lower the liquid, the worse the sound waves are conducted. The result is influenced by the thickness of the expectant mother’s abdominal wall, scars, the position of the fetus and the week of pregnancy.

Making the right diagnosis here requires a great deal of experience and sensitivity. Therefore, the education of the parents by the doctor before such a screening is carried out is of great importance. Because honestly, every doctor must make it clear to the parents that no examination can unequivocally predict a healthy child. The fine ultrasound is nothing more than an auxiliary instrument that can contribute to the detection of an organic development.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.