Stop using ultrasound to determine sex of fetuses, urge doctors, radiologists

Stop using ultrasound to determine sex of fetuses, urge doctors, radiologists

“Canada’s pregnancy specialists and the nation’s radiologists are calling for a halt on using ultrasound for the sole purpose of determining the sex of an unborn fetus.

In a new joint policy statement, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Association of Radiologists also say it could be considered unethical for private, commercial clinics to offer “entertainment” ultrasounds purely for the purpose of creating “keepsake” videos for expectant parents.

The position statement comes amid mounting concerns that in Canada, people are using ultrasound to determine the sex of a fetus early in pregnancy and to have it aborted if it is a girl.”

Mouse models in assessing autism

Mouse models in assessing autism
Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 490-502 (July 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2851
Behavioural phenotyping assays for mouse models of autism

Jill L. Silverman, Mu Yang, Catherine Lord & Jacqueline N. Crawley

Autism is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown aetiology that affects 1 in 100–150 individuals. Diagnosis is based on three categories of behavioural criteria: abnormal social interactions, communication deficits and repetitive behaviours. Strong evidence for a genetic basis has prompted the development of mouse models with targeted mutations in candidate genes for autism. As the diagnostic criteria for autism are behavioural, phenotyping these mouse models requires behavioural assays with high relevance to each category of the diagnostic symptoms. Behavioural neuroscientists are generating a comprehensive set of assays for social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviours to test hypotheses about the causes of austism. Robust phenotypes in mouse models hold great promise as translational tools for discovering effective treatments for components of autism spectrum disorders.

Mice Exposed to Diagnostic Ultrasound Exhibit Autistic-Like Social Behaviors

Mice Exposed to Diagnostic Ultrasound Exhibit Autistic-Like Social Behaviors
Mice Exposed to Diagnostic Ultrasound In Utero Are Less Social and More Active in Social Situations Relative to Controls.
McClintic AM, King BH, Webb SJ, Mourad PD.

Department Neurological Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

Clinical use of diagnostic ultrasound imaging during pregnancy has a long history of safety and diagnostic utility, as supported by numerous human case reports and epidemiological studies. However, there exist in vivo studies linking large but clinically relevant doses of ultrasound applied to mouse fetuses in utero to altered learning, memory, and neuroanatomy of those mice. Also, there exists a well-documented significant increase in the likelihood of non-right-handedness in boys exposed to diagnostic ultrasound in utero, potentially relevant given the increased prevalence of autism in males, and reports of excess non-right-handedness in this population. Motivated by these observations, we applied 30 minutes of diagnostic ultrasound to pregnant mice at embryonic day 14.5 and assayed the social behavior of their male pups 3 weeks after their birth. The ultrasound-exposed pups were significantly (P < 0.01) less interested in social interaction than sham-exposed pups in a three-chamber sociability test. In addition, they demonstrated significantly (P < 0.05) more activity relative to the sham-exposed pups, but only in the presence of an unfamiliar mouse. These results suggest that fetal exposure to diagnostic ultrasound applied in utero can alter typical social behaviors in young mice that may be relevant for autism. There exist meaningful differences between the exposure of diagnostic ultrasound to mice versus humans that require further exploration before this work can usefully inform clinical practice. Future work should address these differences as well as clarify the extent, mechanisms, and functional effects of diagnostic ultrasound's interaction with the developing brain. Autism Res 2013, ●●: ●●-●●. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

*Note: Mouse models of autism rely on studying symptoms, and are infantile.

Dr. David Toms, Md FRCPC, radiologist, created a website to express his concerns about shortcomings of safety in prenatal sonography practice

Dr. David Toms, Md FRCPC, radiologist, created a website to express his concerns about shortcomings of safety in prenatal sonography practice

I had the pleasure to exchange discussion with Dr. Toms recently. To business, I do find his webpage self evident. Have a look yourself.

In his website he gives a thorough and well rounded description of ultrasound, but also discusses shortcomings in the research.  He does not believe that ultrasound is very harmful, but earnestly raises concern that safety is not science fact.

I personally believe that ultrasound is a very promising tool that has great potential for good.  Conservative use of it is the safest way to handle it until at least epidemiology can be performed.  Until then, it is really a coin flip as to how ultrasound affects human development.

There are plenty of studies that suggest ultrasound of levels well below the intensity allowed in fetal scanning have potentially harmful bioeffects.  Especially those that have been seen to directly alter the development of plants and bacteria …

True, it might not be autism or other mental illnesses known right now.  Maybe ultrasound makes people smarter.  I don’t know.

But it does something, and it’s definitely worth investigating further.  Cures for diseases could be found, new applications, …ultrasound will harken a new era of medicine, I believe.  I’ve read plenty of good things about ultrasound, too.

(Un)safety assurances for fetal sonography

(Un)safety assurances for fetal sonography

This article discusses why doctors think that ultrasound is safe to use for fetal imaging.

Key points –

1. In 1992, the intensity of ultrasound was increased dramatically without any subsequent follow up research.  Thus, modern assurances of safety are based on obsolete, inconclusive, and disorganized information.

2. The Output Display Standard are numbers on an ultrasound monitor that practitioners read to guestimate relative risks.  It is not very accurate.

3. How safe a session is depends on the skill of the practitioner.  Sonographers with more training are less likely to hold the ultrasound beam in one place for long, and maybe the really good ones will know important and delicate areas to keep it away from.  In reality, many untrained personnel (nurses or lay-people) perform sonograms so this is not the case always.

Please be careful with the amount of ultrasound you expose your child to.  Less is better, and we don’t know what it does yet.

AIMS questions the safety of prenatal ultrasound

AIMS questions the safety of prenatal ultrasound

This website was prepared in 2000, citing many of the safety issues regarding prenatal ultrasound that are still present today.

A combination of misleading information, state and federal regulations not touching the matter, and that ultrasound side effects are an esoteric field of study which leads to this problem.

Unknowing parents love seeing their children, and unknowing practitioners do not have conclusive evidence that profiteering can cause harm.  Not that all practitioners put money before safety, but many do in the case of fetal sonography.  Some practitioners go so far as to intimidate people into getting more ultrasounds, which goes against the notion of informed consent.

One person who signed the petition at left in the comments, “I have two children, and although my pregnancies were both high risk for various reasons (generally my health during pregnancy), I feel that the number of ultrasounds scheduled was excessive.  I probably had close to 10 in my first pregnancy, and had at least two per week for the last two months of my second pregnancy.  Scare tactics were used by my doctor any time I questioned the need for so many, including the claim that he needed to be “prepared” in case my babies were born with conditions that required immediate treatment.  They were not.  I genuinely believe that some OB’s see high risk pregnancies as a cash cow.  Certainly mine did.”