Use Fetal Ultrasound With Discretion, Advises Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

20:00 EDT 26 Jul 2015 | Globe Newswire

TUCSON, Ariz., July 27, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A developing baby got an average of 5.2 ultrasounds in 2014, while the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently recommended only one or two during a low-risk pregnancy, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.

In response, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) states that physicians should always strive to do no harm, and thus always weigh both benefits and risks.

"Ultrasound is a wonderful technology that brings many life-saving benefits," states executive director Jane M. Orient, M.D., "although frequent screening in low-risk pregnancies has not been shown to change the baby's outcome."

"All medical interventions have risks, so before ordering a test, a physician should always ask how the result will change therapy."

The number of fetal ultrasounds is up 92% since 2004, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, modern equipment delivers eight times as much acoustic energy as equipment manufactured in 1992, when safety studies were done, states Kevin Helliker in the WSJ, July 18-19.

A 2015 book by Jack Rabin, M.D., Ultrasound and Autism: What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know, addresses the observation that increases in learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and autism have paralleled the increasing use of prenatal ultrasound.

"This in no way proves a cause-effect relationship," Dr. Orient emphasizes. "Many other changes have occurred over this time period."

Concerns include the dearth of evidence of safety at high energy levels and the results of some animal experiments, Dr. Orient stated. Fetal chicks exposed to ultrasound in the egg had post-birth learning and memory deficits. Mice exposed in utero exhibited hyperactivity and social behavior deficits.

Possible mechanisms for damage include slight heating of the tissues, the production of small bubbles (cavitations) in some tissues, and a possible effect on neuronal migration, she noted.

"Exposing the fetus to high levels of energy in nonmedical facilities where operators are not paying attention to recommended limits, just to get a neat picture to put on Facebook, is unwise," advises Orient. "Have the procedure done for a medical indication by medically trained operators."

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943 to preserve private medicine and the patient-physician relationship.

CONTACT: Jane M. Orient, M.D., (520) 323-3110,

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