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Ultrasound: A collection of articles and links.
Diagnostic Ultrasound: A New Bibliography
Human Studies Conducted in Modern China
by Jim West

MP3 audio interview with Jim West [1 hour 22 Minutes, 54 MB]

Conflicts of Interest: Understanding the Safety Issues Around Prenatal 3D Ultrasound

Ultrasound - weighing the propaganda against the facts

Ultrasound associated with mild brain damage ?

Weighing the Risks: What You Should Know about Ultrasound

Shadow of a doubt

excerpts about ultrasound from "What Doctors Don't Tell You"

doppler devices

Effect of diagnostic ultrasound during the fetal period on learning and memory in mice

Neurotoxicity of diagnostic ultrasound in mice

Effect of prenatal ultrasound exposure on adult behavior in mice.[PubMed]

AlternaMoms Unite

Unhindered-Living, The Dangers of Prenatal Ultrasound

1994 study by Wiley InterScience.

Conflicts of Interest: Understanding the Safety Issues Around Prenatal 3D Ultrasound
By Ted Nace

With Research Assistance from Merrian Fuller and Jonah Eaton

Posted June 2, 2005
Download the PDF of this article

Like many things, the safety of ultrasound depends on the level of exposure. Studies of the lower exposures common in the 1970s and 1980s are fairly reassuring. But since 1993, allowable exposure levels have risen dramatically, and little research has been done on the effects of these higher doses.

Meanwhile the use of prenatal ultrasound continues to expand in what one consumer advocate calls “the biggest uncontrolled experiment in history.” (1) In 2000, approximately 2.7 million women in the United States received prenatal sonograms—some 67 percent of pregnant women. (2)

When ultrasounds provide useful medical information, such as due date or indications of malformations, most doctors consider the risks acceptable. After a medical ultrasound exam, parents typically take home a simple 2D printout showing their fetus, and such pictures have become a virtual ritual of pregnancy in many industrialized countries.

Now, manufacturers are pushing hard to win acceptance for a much more extensive new ritual: a 4D (full motion 3D) movie of the unborn infant, provided by “fetal portrait” studios in shopping malls. These movies are captured on DVD using state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment such as the Voluson 730 made by General Electric.

A recent General Electric TV ad bypasses doctors to promote these videos directly to parents, saying, “When you see your baby for the first time on the new GE 4D ultrasound system, it really is a miracle.” (3)

Who could resist?

General Electric’s website provides links to commercial facilities where the new technology is available. With names like “Womb with a View” and “Peek-a-Boo,” these businesses advertise heavily in parents’ magazines and on the Internet, offering a variety of packages, ranging from a basic 2D ultrasound video ($75) to a deluxe package that includes a 20-minute 4D video set to music and stored on DVD, a set of wallet photographs, and a set of larger photographs suitable for framing ($285).

And the videos are in hot demand. Seeing their unborn baby thrills and comforts many parents. Writes British doctor Stuart Campbell, “Both maternal and paternal reaction to the moving 3D image is something we have not previously encountered. I have seen fathers kiss the screen or, more appropriately, their partner’s abdomen in an ecstasy of recognition and pleasure.” (4)

The Safety Question

But what about safety? On their websites, providers offer sweeping assurances that using ultrasound to view unborn infants is devoid of any risk. One confidently states, “Extensive studies over 30 years have found that ultrasound has not been shown to cause any harm to mother or baby.” (5) Another says flatly, “There has never been a harmful effect shown by the use of ultrasound. Many women have multiple ultrasounds during pregnancy with no negative effect on the baby.” (6) Yet another: “Thousands of studies have been conducted. Nothing has surfaced yet that indicates any harmful effects in the use of ultrasound on animals or on humans.” (7)

Yet even as business interests strive to reassure their customers, government health officials and professional medical associations issue warnings.

In 1999, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) released the following statement:
The AIUM strongly discourages the non-medical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes. The use of either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus, or determine the fetal gender without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice. (8)

In February 2004, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the following statement:
Persons who promote, sell or lease ultrasound equipment for making “keepsake” fetal videos should know that FDA views this as an unapproved use of a medical device. In addition, those who subject individuals to ultrasound exposure using a diagnostic ultrasound device (a prescription device) without a physician’s order may be in violation of state or local laws or regulations regarding use of a prescription medical device. (9)

Which is right, the statements that fetal ultrasound is perfectly safe or the cautions against it? Why the concern over a technology that has been in everyday use in doctors’ offices for decades?

How Ultrasound Impacts Fetal Tissue

Ultrasound is a form of energy—sound waves vibrating at approximately a hundred times the frequency of normal sound—and the waves can affect tissue in a variety of ways. Heat is one effect. In addition, although ultrasound itself does not produce audible noise, secondary vibrations can produce noises as loud as 100 decibels, causing fetuses to move. (10) Other effects, still poorly understood, include tiny bubbles in tissue (a process known as cavitation), sheering forces within tissues, induced flows within fluids, and creation of minute quantities of toxic chemicals. (11)

Ethical restrictions preclude the direct study of ultrasound effects on humans. So scientists are using animal studies as well as data from populations of humans exposed to ultrasound in the past.

According to one 1998 study, temperature increases of 4.5 degrees Centigrade (8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) were measured in the brain of late-gestation live guinea-pig fetuses insonated in utero for 2 minutes by pulsed Doppler-type ultrasound. (12) Other guinea-pig studies have shown adverse effects on cell division in bone marrow following ultrasound exposure. (13)

In October 2004, Pasko Rakic, Chairman of the Neurobiology Department at Yale University, announced that he and his colleagues had observed disruption of normal migration of cells in the brains of fetal mice following exposure to ultrasound. Rakic is now conducting a $3 million study to see if the same effects occur in the offspring of rhesus macaque monkeys scanned during pregnancy. In humans, such disruption is known to be caused by certain viruses, mutations, and drugs, and it is linked to a range of disorders including autism and learning disabilities. [14]

In 2001, a team of Polish researchers published actual temperature readings obtained from an adult human brain during ultrasound exposure. The results showed no temperature increase, causing the researchers to hypothesize that the human brain enjoys better cooling capacities than the brains of smaller mammals. (15) But no one knows whether the rapidly developing brain of the human fetus is similarly protected from ultrasound-induced heat. To determine whether such heating may produce subtle brain damage in human populations, scientists have sought to compare the health histories of children exposed to ultrasound and the same data for children not exposed.(16)

To date, studies of humans exposed to ultrasound have shown the following possible adverse effects: growth retardation, dyslexia, and delayed speech development. (17) But only one effect, a higher rate of left-handedness among boys exposed to neonatal ultrasound, has been observed in at least three separate studies.

Why Worry about Left-handed Boys?

If the only demonstrated result of neonatal ultrasound is more left-handed boys, why be concerned? The answer is twofold. First, left-handedness is statistically linked to many cognitive and developmental problems ranging from learning difficulties to autism to epilepsy.

Second, many researchers view a rising rate of left-handedness as the neurological equivalent a “canary in a coal mine,” a suggestion that other types of minor brain damage may also arise. According to medical reporter Robert Matthews, the increase in left-handedness associated with neonatal ultrasound exposure could be the result of subtle brain damage causing people who ought genetically to be right-handed to become left-handed. (18)

The left-handedness findings were based on health data from children whose mothers underwent lower-voltage scanning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But by the mid-1990s, average exposure levels had risen significantly. In 2003, the ECMUS Safety Committee noted that time-averaged values of intensity in the most common ultrasound scanning mode, “are now up to 1000 times greater than those reported in the 1970s.” (19) Scientists need to repeat the left-handedness studies, as well as studies of other possible effects, on this younger, more intensively exposed population. To date, such follow-up studies have not been done. (20) Thus, claims that “there has never been a harmful effect shown” simply do not apply to today’s ultrasound equipment.

FDA Reduces Oversight While Increasing Risk Levels

A milestone came in 1993 when the FDA raised the maximum output of ultrasound machines used in obstetrics eightfold, from 94 up to 720 milliwatts per square centimeter. (21) The FDA was persuaded that operators needed greater flexibility, especially when confronting life-and-death situations such as determining blood flows in tiny coronary arteries in the midst of an ongoing heart attack.

At the time it raised the exposure ceiling, the FDA began requiring manufacturers to add two on-screen safety indexes. One measures the heating of bone or tissue; the other “mechanical” effects, including cavitation caused by the expansion of gas bubbles, sheering forces within tissues, and induced flows within fluids.

The FDA expected that a well trained sonographer using the on-screen safety indexes properly would not subject patioents to greater levels of ultrasound exposure than under the previous system of regulation. But then the FDA failed to ensure that sonographers are properly trained. According to ultrasound experts, the actual state of sonographer training is dismally inadequate. Dr. Jacques Abramowicz, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Radiation at the University of Chicago, said, “Only two to three percent of the population doing ultrasound really know what the thermal index and the mechanical index mean.”

Even trained operators are confused by the complexity of interactions between sound waves and human tissues, the ways different ultrasound modes affect exposure, and the different responses caused in different parts of the body. Bones respond differently than muscles, for example. And bone is extremely sensitive to ultrasound heating: the skull of a third-trimester fetus heats up 50 time more quickly than brain tissue when exposed to ultrasound. (22) This means that brain structures lying close to the skull, such as the pituitary and the hypothalamus, are especially at risk of secondary heating. (23)

Yet another wild card is the difference in sensitivity between fetal tissue and adult tissue: fetal brain tissues are more sensitive to disturbance because of the developmental changes taking place.

The on-screen temperature safety indexes can give false assurance, even when operators are perfectly trained. According to Dr. Abramowicz, the actual amount of tissue heating may exceed the level predicted by the safety index by a factor of 2 to 6. Thus, actual heating may reach a dangerous level even when the safety index shows otherwise.

Finally, researchers cannot agree where to set the “safety baseline” for temperature effects. Most researchers regard a temperature rise of .5 degrees Centigrade to be safe. But according to John Abbott, PhD, director of standards communication for Philips Medical Systems, the indexes “cannot be considered as absolute measures of anything.They apply to the machine, transducer and operating condition in use at the time. A thermal index of 4 is more than a thermal index of 3. That's all.”

Acceptable Levels of Risk

Despite the uncertainties, doctors continue to use medical ultrasound because the diagnostic benefits are believed to outweigh any potential harm. Says Dr. Abramowicz, “The common rationale is that ultrasound has been in use for 45 years now and we haven’t had missing arms and legs.”

In other words, doctors accept that there may be risks, but they believe that medical ultrasound remains a beneficial practice when performed by a trained operator for diagnostic purposes. According to Dr. Joshua Copel, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics at Yale University, “It’s impossible to prove ultrasound is completely safe, but if you’re getting medically helpful information, then the tradeoff is reasonable.”

As for keepsake fetal portraits, Dr. Copel advises his patients to steer clear: “We don’t know what equipment they’re using, what the acoustic output is, and what the training of the personnel is.”

Because tissue heat increases over the length of exposure, well-trained sonographers limit the duration of any medical ultrasound procedure. But in multiple investigations of keepsake fetal portrait studios, FDA investigators found patients being exposed to higher machine settings for as long as an hour in order to obtain fetal pictures, much longer than is considered prudent. (24)

What Protection from the FDA?

Despite the FDA’s own findings and expressed concerns, the federal government has recently adopted a notably softer stance toward the practice of “keepsake” fetal ultrasound. When keepsake portrait studios first appeared in the 1990s, the FDA cracked down-—hard. In 1994, the agency issued warnings against seven companies to stop making videos or face seizure, injunction, or other regulatory action. By May 1995, five of the companies had shut down. (25)

As late as 1999, the FDA continued to issue official warning letters, such as the following to PK Ultrasound of Coral Springs, Florida: “…to use the UM4A Ultrasound System for non-diagnostic video taping sessions of the fetus for keepsake videography … is in violation of the law.”

Now, although fetal portrait studios are rapidly proliferating, the agency has stopped issuing any warning letters. In response to queries, FDA press officer Sharon Snider said, “We’re considering what our options are.”

According to “The Gray Sheet,” a medical devices trade publication, the FDA changed course after the arrival of Bush-appointee Dan Troy as chief legal counsel. (26) Prior to joining the FDA, Troy represented pharmaceutical and tobacco companies on legal cases against the FDA. (27) At the FDA, Troy issued a new policy requiring all warning letters to drug companies and medical device manufacturers to be approved by his office. In the wake of the new policy, the number of warning letters issued by the agency dropped by 70 percent. (28) In November, 2004, Troy left the FDA after being widely criticized for intervening on behalf of drug companies, including his former client Pfizer, but to date there is no indication that his departure has resulted in any shift toward more active enforcement of the FDA’s policy on keepsake fetal portraits.

Under a passive FDA, the ultrasound industry is openly flouting regulations. Despite the official ban on non-diagnostic use of ultrasound equipment, most keepsake fetal portrait studios routinely advertise non-diagnostic examinations.

Clearly, there is money to be made at all levels of the ultrasound food chain: worldwide sales of ultrasound equipment reached $3.2 billion in 2004 according to one trade association. (29) And that figure does not include the incomes of franchisers such as Geddes Keepsake, or mom-and-pop keepsake portrait studies. Equipment sales alone are projected to triple by 2009. (30) Market researcher Harvey Klein recently noted that for General Electric 4D technology has been an area of surprising growth, helping that company achieve an 18 percent increase in ultrasound equipment sales in 2003, three times the 6 percent average growth for other manufacturers. (31)

Social Agendas Complicate the Safety Discussion

The biggest wildcard in the politics of ultrasound — even bigger than big money— is the anti-abortion movement’s embrace of the technology. Calling the images a “miracle,” activist newsletters and magazines abound in reports of women who change their minds about abortion after seeing 3D videos of their unborn fetus.

In 2003, Congressman Clifford Stearns (Republican from Florida) introduced the “Informed Consent Act,” which would subsidize ultrasound equipment for anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy counseling” centers. If passed, the law would provide up to 50 percent of the cost of ultrasound equipment for such centers, and would also require that all pregnant women be shown images of their unborn fetus.

Has abortion politics played a role in the FDA’s shift toward a passive enforcement stance? Neither FDA officials nor business leaders are willing to answer the question on the record. “Off the record, I don’t doubt it for a minute,” said one expert.

We've Seen This Before

Some observers compare the fetal portrait fad to earlier crazes involving “perfectly safe” imaging technologies and the natural desire to look inside the human body. Beginning in the 1920s, a device known as the “shoe-fitting fluoroscope” was a common feature in shoe stores, displaying x-ray images of customers’ feet. Despite decades of warnings by medical professionals and increasing attempts by regulatory agencies to stop the practice, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes remained popular until the early 1960s. (32)

A Gap in the Safety Net

At the center of the fetal portrait fad are the simple, normal desires of expectant parents to be reassured about the health and well being of their new baby. Sadly, that very desire for reassurance and enjoyment makes parents vulnerable to sales pitches for technologies whose safety remains uncertain. Ultrasound, of course, plays a vital role when needed for a legitimate medical purpose. But as with any powerful technology, caution is advised. Says Dr. Abramowicz: “I recommend against keepsake ultrasounds. The principle is simple. You should not use a medical device for a non-medical purpose.”

Meanwhile, the issue of prenatal ultrasound has highlighted a serious gap in the regulatory system. Unlike new drugs, medical devices are not subjected to rigorous animal and human testing prior to being released. While it is reassuring that researchers are finally beginning to understand just how ultrasound may affect brain development, the best time for such research would have been before the FDA loosened the ceilings on ultrasound exposure. Since 1993, when the rules were changed, some 28 million pregnant women have been exposed to ultrasound.

Concerned citizens should push for full enforcement of the FDA’s existing rules on ultrasound, so that prenatal ultrasound is limited to appropriate medical uses. But action needs to go further than that. The approval process needs to be changed so that medical devices, including the new higher intensity ultrasound machines, are fully tested before – not after – being put into widespread use.

Notes and Links
1. 1993 statement attributed to UK consumer activist Beverly Beech in Sarah Buckley, “Ultrasound Scans: Cause for Concern,” Nexus, Vol. 9, No. 6, Oct.-Nov. 2002.
2. Figures are for the year 2000. Source: National Center of Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Live births to mothers with selected obstetric procedures,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 50, No. 5, Feb. 12, 2002, Table 36.
4. Stuart Campbell, “4D, or not 4D: that is the question,” Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 19, No. 1, Dec. 12, 2002, 1-4.
9. Carol Rados, “FDA cautions against ultrasound ‘keepsake’ images,” FDA Consumer, Jan.-Feb., 2004. at
10. Eugenie Samuel, “Fetuses can hear ultrasound examinations,” New Scientist, Vol. 10, No. 4, Dec. 4, 2001. Mostafa Fatemi, Paul L. Ogburn, Jr., James F. Greenleaf, “Fetal Stimulation by Pulsed Diagnostic Ultrasound,” Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, Vol. 20, 2001, 883-889.
11. S.B. Barnett, “Can diagnostic ultrasound heat tissue and cause biological effects?” In S.B. Barnett and G. Kossoff, eds., Safety of Diagnostic Ultrasound (Carnforth, UK: Parthenon Publishing, 1998), 30–31.
12. M.M. Horder, S.B. Barnett, G.J. Vella, M.J. Edwards, A.K.W. Wood, “Ultrasound-induced temperature increase in the guinea pig fetal brain in utero: third-trimester gestation.” Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, Vol. 24, No. 5, June 1998, 1501-10; M.M. Horder, S.B. Barnett, G.J. Vella, M.J. Edwards, A.K.W. Wood, “In vivo heating of the guinea pig fetal brain by pulsed ultrasound and estimates of Thermal Index,” Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, Vol. 24, No. 5, June 1998, 1467-74.
13. S.B. Barnett, M.J. Edwards, P. Martin, “Pulsed ultrasound induces temperature elevation and nuclear abnormalities in bone marrow cells of guinea pig femurs.” Proceedings of the 6th World Congress on Ultrasound Medicine, No. 3405 (Copenhagen, Denmark: WFUMB, 1991).
14. Jim Giles, “Ultrasound scans accused of disrupting brain development,”, 10/27/2004 at
15. Z. Mariak, J. Krejza, M. Swiercz, T. Lyson, J. Lewko, “Human brain temperature in vivo: lack of heating during transcranial color Doppler US,” Journal of Neuroimaging, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2001, 308-312.
16. D. Marinac-Dabic, C.J. Krulewitch, and R.M. Moore, Jr., “The safety of prenatal ultrasound exposure in human subjects.” Epidemiology, May 13, 2002 (2 Supplement): S19-22.
17. K.A. Salvesen, L.J. Vatten, S.H. Eik-Nes, K. Hugdahl, L.S. Bakketeig, “Routine ultrasonography in utero and subsequent handedness and neurological development,” British Medical Journal, Vol. 307, 1993, 159-64. H. Kieler, O. Axelsson, B. Haglund, S. Nilsson, K.A. Salvesen, “Routine ultrasound screening in pregnancy and children’s subsequent handedness.” Early Human Development, Vol. 50, 1998, 233-45.
18. Robert Matthews, “Ultrasound Scans Linked to Brain Damage in Babies,” Epidemiology, Vol. 12, Dec. 2001, 618.
19. ECMUS Safety Committee, “Diagnostic Ultrasound Exposure,” EFSMB Newsletter, Jan. 2003.
20. Carol Rados, “FDA cautions against ultrasound ‘keepsake’ images,” FDA Consumer, Jan.-Feb., 2004.
21. Carol Rados, “FDA cautions against ultrasound ‘keepsake’ images,” FDA Consumer, Jan.-Feb., 2004.
22. S.B. Barnett, “Can diagnostic ultrasound heat tissue and cause biological effects?” In S.B. Barnett and G. Kossoff, eds., Safety of Diagnostic Ultrasound (Carnforth, UK: Parthenon Publishing, 1998), 28.
23. S.B. Barnett, “Sensitivity to diagnostic ultrasound in obstetrics,” In S.B. Barnett and G. Kossoff, eds., Safety of Diagnostic Ultrasound. (Carnforth, UK: Parthenon Publishing, 1998), 58.
24. Carol Rados, “FDA cautions against ultrasound ‘keepsake’ images,” FDA Consumer, Jan.-Feb. 2004.
25. Marian Segal, “FDA Says No to ‘Premature’ Videos,” FDA Consumer, Sept. 1995.
26. “‘Keepsake’ Fetal Ultrasounds Persist Despite FDA’s Dim View of Practice,” The Gray Sheet, June 2, 2003.
27. Michael Kranish, “FDA Counsel’s Rise Embodies US Shift,” Boston Globe, Dec. 22, 2002.
28. James G. Dickinson, “FDA Cuts Warning Letters by 70%,” Washington Wrap-up;
29. National Electrical Manufacturers Association at
30. According to market researcher Frost and Sullivan, 3D ultrasound equipment sales are projected to triple from $147.1 million in 2002 to $517.5 million in 2009. Source: “3D medical imaging will expand in U.S. market,” Medical Imaging, Mar. 2003, at
31. “GE Healthcare takes the global leadership position,” June 20, 2004, at
32. Jacalyn Duffin and Charles R. R. Hayter, “Baring the Sole: The Rise and Fall of the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope,” Isis, Vol. 91, No 2, June 2000, 260-282. A brief history of the shoe-fitting fluoroscope can also be found in the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Collection at

Ultrasound Unsound?
A collection of articles and links.

From: "Sheri Nakken" [See bottom of page]
Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2004 3:41 AM
Subject: Ultrasound Unsound? (Collection of info)

OK to share........

Here is a link to an interesting article entitled Ultrasound - weighing the propaganda against the facts. It was written by the author of Ultrasound Unsound?

I have seen other studies identifying negative side effects of ultrasounds. One in particular found that as little as 1 ultrasound could delay a child's speech by as much as 9 months. This study was done in Canada, not the US. Other findings have suggested that the increase in left-handedness among children who were scanned before birth is linked to the ultrasound, which would show that the scan does alter the brain in some way.

In the US, keep in mind that medical equipment does not undergo the type of testing that a drug must go through to get on the market. The scans used today are more invasive than the earlier ones, so it will take a few more decades to really know the outcome. The recent generations of children who have been scanned are in fact the guinea pigs that will decide the safety of ultrasounds -- which have done nothing to lower childbirth death rates, but have sent the C-section rate dangerously high in the US.

The article above points out that the doppler, used to detect heart tones on every prenatal visit unless you have a midwife (who uses a fetalscope), may cause even more damage than the ultrasound.


This is straight from the journal "Epidemiology" (Dec 2001), and suggests that ultrasound is associated with mild brain damage.

My boss, Dr. Mark Ellisman, is a world-renowned research scientist at UCSD who specializes in imaging technologies for the study of brain structure at the cellular level; he has personally found evidence of something called "cavitation", which is the "rapid formation and collapse of vapor pockets" in fluid within tissue. When my wife and I became pregnant he warned me to keep the ultrasound as short as possible. He knows what he's talking about.

Here's a relevant quote:

"Free radical production in amniotic fluid and blood plasma by medical ultrasound, probably following gaseous cavitation, has been detected by Crum et al (1987). This provides a likely mechanism for the origin of the DNA damage. Because of these confirmations and a report by Ellisman et al (1987) that diagnostic levels of ultrasound may disrupt myelination in neonatal rats, the need for regulation, guidance, and properly controlled clinical studies is clear."
Here's another useful link:

So please don't consider this a benign procedure or an opportunity to get some pretty pictures. and *please* don't get an extra 3D ultrasound, which is a very long scan, to get the 3D picture of your baby. There is a real risk, and it's just not worth it.

Do a Google search on "+ultrasound +cavitation" or "+ultrasound +Ellisman" and convince yourself.

Just my .02


Weighing the Risks: What You Should Know about Ultrasound By Sarah Buckley Issue 102, September/October 2000

Ultrasonography was originally developed during World War II to detect enemy submarines. Its use in medicine was pioneered in Glasgow, Scotland, by Dr. Ian Donald, who first used ultrasound to look at abdominal tumors, and later babies in utero in the mid-1950s.1 The use of ultrasound in pregnancy spread quickly.

In westernized healthcare systems, ultrasound, which may be offered to a pregnant woman either to investigate a possible problem at any stage of pregnancy or as a routine scan at around 18 weeks, has become almost universal in pregnancy. In Australia, where I live, 99 percent of pregnant women have at least one scan, paid for in part by our federal government, through Medicare. In fact, from 1997 to 1998 Medicare paid out AU$39 million for obstetric scans, compared to AU$54 million for all other obstetric Medicare costs. In the US, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) estimates that 60 to 70 percent of pregnant women are scanned, despite an official statement from ACOG that recommends against routine ultrasound.2 At a cost of roughly $300 per procedure, this represents a cost of approximately $70 to $80 million each year in the US.

Besides routine scans, ultrasound can be prescribed to investigate problems such as bleeding in early pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, ultrasound can be used when a baby is not growing, or when breech or twin births are suspected. In such cases, the information gained from ultrasound can be very useful in decision-making, and generally most professionals support the use of ultrasound in this context.

It is such use of routine prenatal ultrasound (RPU) that is more controversial, as this practice involves scanning all pregnant women in the hope of improving the outcome for some mothers and babies. RPU seeks to gain four main types of information:

Estimated due date. Dating a pregnancy is most accurate at early stages, when babies vary the least in size. By contrast, at 18 to 20 weeks the expected date of delivery is only accurate to within a week either way. Some studies have suggested, however, that an early examination or a woman's own estimation of her due date can be as accurate as RPU.3,4 Unsuspected physical abnormalities. While many women are reassured by a normal scan, in fact RPU detects only between 17 percent and 85 percent of the one in 50 babies that have major abnormalities at birth.5,6 A recent study from Brisbane, Australia, showed that ultrasound at a major women's hospital missed about 40 percent of abnormalities, many of which are difficult or impossible to detect.7 The major causes of intellectual disability, such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, or heart and kidney abnormalities, are unlikely to be picked up on a routine scan.

There is also a small chance that the diagnosis of an abnormality is false positive. In some instances, normal babies have been aborted because of false-positive diagnoses.8 A United Kingdom survey found that one in 200 babies aborted for major abnormalities were wrongly diagnosed.9

In addition to false positives, there are also uncertain cases in which the ultrasound image cannot be easily interpreted, and the outcome for the baby is not known. In one study involving babies at higher risk of abnormalities, almost 10 percent of scans were uncertain.10 This can create immense anxiety for the woman and her family that may not be allayed by the birth of a normal baby: in the same study, mothers with questionable diagnoses still had associated anxiety three months after the child's birth. Uncertain findings also lead to repeated and/or prolonged scans, increasing the expense, inconvenience, and dosage of ultrasound.

In some cases of uncertainty, further tests such as amniocentesis are recommended. In such situations, there may be up to two weeks wait for results, during which time a mother must consider whether or not she will terminate the pregnancy if an abnormality is found. Even mothers who receive reassuring news have felt that this process has interfered with their relationship with their babies.11

Location of the placenta. A very low-lying placenta (placenta previa) puts mother and baby at risk of severe bleeding, and usually necessitates a cesarean section. However, 19 out of 20 women who have placenta previa detected on RPU will be needlessly worried, as the placenta will effectively move upwards as the pregnancy progresses.12 Furthermore, detection of placenta previa by RPU has not been found to be safer than detection in labor.13

Multiple fetuses. Ultrasound can detect the presence of more than one baby at an early stage of pregnancy, but this knowledge affords no documented health advantages for mother or babies, and, without RPU, almost all multiple pregnancies are discovered before birth.14

Why Are RPUs So Popular? Supporters of RPU argue that availability of ultrasonic information leads to better outcomes for mother and baby. While this seems logical, researchers have not found evidence of significant benefit from RPU, and the issue of the safety of ultrasound has not yet been resolved.

From a research perspective, the most significant benefit of RPU is a small reduction in perinatal mortality, that is the number of babies dying around the time of birth. This is, however, merely a statistical reduction since perinatal mortality rates do not include deaths that occur before five to six months' gestation. Often when a baby is found to have a fatal abnormality on RPU, the pregnancy is terminated before this time, excluding the baby from perinatal statistics.

RPU proponents presume that early diagnosis and termination is beneficial to women and their families. However, the discovery of a major abnormality on RPU can lead to very difficult decision-making. Some women who agree to have an ultrasound are unaware that they may get information about their baby that they do not want, as they would not contemplate a termination. Other women can feel pressured to have a termination, or at least feel some emotional distancing from their "abnormal" baby.15

Furthermore, there is no evidence that women who have chosen termination are, in the long term, psychologically better off than women whose babies have died at birth. In fact, there are suggestions that the reverse may be true in some cases.16 In choosing a possible stillbirth over a termination, women at least get social acknowledgment and support, and are able to grieve openly. Where termination has been chosen, women are unlikely to share their story with others and can experience considerable guilt and pain from the knowledge that they themselves chose the loss.17

Another purported benefit of RPU is a reduced risk of being induced for being "overdue," because RPU dating gives a more certain estimated due date. However, there is no clear evidence that this is true, as the possibility of induction is more determined by hospital or doctor policy than by the availability of RPU.19

Many supporters of RPU claim that it's a pleasurable experience, and contributes to bonding between mother (and father, if he is present) and baby. While it is true that it can be exciting to get a first glimpse of one's baby in utero, there is no evidence that it helps attachment or encourages healthier behavior toward the baby.20 For most women, bonding occurs naturally when they begin to feel fetal movements at 16 to 20 weeks.

Reasons for Concern Ultrasound waves are known to affect living tissues in at least two ways. First, the sonar beam heats the highlighted area by about 1°C (2°F). This is presumed to be insignificant, based on whole-body heating in pregnancy, which seems to be safe up to 2.5°C (5°F).21 The second effect is cavitation, where the small pockets of gas that exist within mammalian tissue vibrate and then collapse. In this situation "...temperatures of many thousands of degrees Celsius in the gas create a wide range of chemical products, some of which are potentially toxic."22 The significance of cavitation in human tissue is unknown.

A number of studies have suggested that these effects are of real concern in living tissues. The first study indicating problems analyzed cells grown in the lab. Cell abnormalities caused by exposure to ultrasound were seen to persist for several generations.23 Another study showed that, in newborn rats (who are at a similar stage of brain development as humans at four to five months in utero), ultrasound can damage the myelin that covers nerves,24 indicating that the nervous system may be particularly susceptible to damage from this technology. In 1999, an animal study by Brennan and colleagues, reported in New Scientist,25 showed that exposing mice to dosages typical of obstetric ultrasound caused a 22 percent reduction in the rate of cell division, and a doubling of the rate of cell death in the cells of the small intestine.

Studies on humans exposed to ultrasound have shown possible adverse effects, including premature ovulation,26 preterm labor or miscarriage,27, 28 low birthweight,29 poorer condition at birth,30, 31 dyslexia,32 delayed speech development,33 and less right-handedness,34, 35 a factor which in some circumstances can be a marker of damage to the developing brain. In addition, one Australian study showed that babies exposed to five or more ultrasounds were 30 percent more likely to develop intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR)--a condition that ultrasound is often used to detect.36

Two long-term randomized controlled trials, comparing exposed and unexposed children's development at eight to nine years of age, found no measurable effect from ultrasound.37, 38 However, as the authors note, intensities used today are many times higher than in 1979 to 1981. A later report of one of these trials39 indicated that scanning time was only three minutes. More studies are obviously needed in this area, particularly in Doppler ultrasound, where exposure levels are much higher, and in vaginal ultrasound, where there is less tissue shielding the baby from the transducer.

A further problem with studying ultrasound's effect is the huge range of output, or dose, possible from a single machine. Modern machines can give comparable ultrasound pictures using either a lower or a 5,000 times higher dose,40 and there are no standards to ensure that the lowest dose is used. Because of the complexity of machines, it is difficult to even quantify the dose given in each examination.41 In the US, as in Australia, training is voluntary (even for obstetricians), and the skill and experience of operators varies widely.

In all the research done on ultrasound, there has been very little interest in women's opinions of RPU, and the consequences of universal scanning for women's experience of pregnancy. In her thoughtful book on prenatal diagnosis, The Tentative Pregnancy,42 Barbara Katz Rothman suggests that the large numbers of screening tests currently being offered to check for abnormalities makes every pregnancy tentative until reassuring results come back.

Ultrasound is not compulsory, and I suggest that each woman consider the risks, benefits, and implications of scanning for her own particular situation. If you decide to have a scan, be clear about the information that you do and do not want to be told. Have your scan done by an operator with a high level of skill and experience (usually this means performing at least 750 scans per year) and say that you want the shortest scan possible. If an abnormality is found, ask for counseling and a second opinion as soon as practical. And remember, it's your baby and your choice.

1. Ann Oakley, "The History of Ultrasonography in Obstetrics," Birth 13, no. 1 (1986): 8-13.

2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "Routine Ultrasound in Low-Risk Pregnancy, ACOG Practice Patterns: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Clinical Issues," Obstetrics and Gynecology 5 (August 1997).

3. O. Olsen et al., "Routine Ultrasound Dating Has Not Been Shown to Be More Accurate Than the Calendar Method," Br J Obstet Gynaecol 104, no. 11 (1997): 1221-1222.

4. H. Kieler, O. Axelsson, S. Nilsson, and U. Waldenstrom, "Comparison of Ultrasonic Measurement of Biparietal Diameter and Last Menstrual Period as a Predictor of Day of Delivery in Women with Regular 28-Day Cycles," Acta-Obstet-Gynecol-Scand 75, no. 5 (1993): 347-349.

5. B. G. Ewigman, J. P. Crane, F. D. Frigoletto et al., "Effect of Prenatal Ultrasound Screening on Perinatal Outcome," N Engl J Med 329, no. 12 (1993): 821-827.

6. C. A. Luck, "Value of Routine Ultrasound Scanning at 19 Weeks: A Four Year Study of 8849 Deliveries," British Medical Journal 34, no. 6840 (1992): 1474-1478.

7. F. Y. Chan, "Limitations of Ultrasound," paper presented at Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand 1st Annual Congress, Freemantle, 1997.

8. AIMS UK, "Ultrasound Unsound?," AIMS UK Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring 1993).

9. I. R. Brand, P. Kaminopetros, M. Cave et al., "Specificity of Antenatal Ultrasound in the Yorkshire Region: A Prospective Study of 2261 Ultrasound Detected Anomalies," Br J Obstet Gynaecal 101, no. 5 (1994): 392-397.

10. J. W. Sparling, J. W. Seeds, and D. C. Farran, "The Relationship of Obstetric Ultrasound to Parent and Infant Behavior," Obstet Gynecol 72, no. 6 (1988): 902-907.

11. A. Brookes, "Women's Experience of Routine Prenatal Ultrasound," Healthsharing Women: The Newsletter of Healthsharing Women's Health Resource Service (Melbourne, Australia) 5, no.s 3, 4 (December 1994-March 1995).

12. MIDIRS, Informed Choice for Professionals, Ultrasound Screening in the First Half of Pregnancy: Is It Useful for Everyone? (UK: MIDIRS and the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, 1996).

13. A. Saari-Kemppainen, O. Karjalainen, P. Ylostalo et al., "Ultrasound Screening and Perinatal Mortality: Controlled Trial of Systematic One-stage Screening in Pregnancy," The Lancet 336, no. 8712 (1990): 387-391.

14. See Note 12.

15. See Note 11.

16. D. Watkins, "An Alternative to Termination of Pregnancy," The Practitioner 233, no. 1472 (1989): 990, 992.

17. See Note 12.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. "American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine Bioeffects Report 1988," J Ultrasound Med 7 (September 1988): S1-S38.

22. Ibid.

23. D. Liebeskind, R. Bases, F. Elequin et al., "Diagnostic Ultrasound: Effects on the DNA and Growth Patterns of Animal Cells," Radiology 131, no. 1 (1979): 177-184.

24. M. H. Ellisman, D. E. Palmer, and M. P. Andre, "Diagnostic Levels of Ultrasound May Disrupt Myelination," Experimental Neurology 98, no. 1 (1987): 78-92.

25. Brennan et al., "Shadow of Doubt," New Scientist 12 (June 1999): 23.

26. J. Testart, A. Thebalt, E. Souderis, and R. Frydman, "Premature Ovulation after Ovarian Ultrasonography," Br J Obstet Gynaecol 89, no. 9 (1982): 694-700.

27. See Note 13.

28. R. P. Lorenz, C. H. Comstock, S. F. Bottoms, and S. R. Marx, "Randomised Prospective Trial Comparing Ultrasonography and Pelvic Examination for Preterm Labor Surveillance," Am J Obstet Gynecol 162, no. 6 (1990): 1603-1610.

29. J. Newnham, S. F. Evans, C. A. Michael et al., "Effects of Frequent Ultrasound During Pregnancy: A Randomised Controlled Trial," The Lancet 342, no. 8876 (1993): 887-891.

30. S. B. Thacker, "The Case of Imaging Ultrasound in Obstetrics: A Review," Br J Obstet Gynaecol 92, no. 5 (1985): 437-444.

31. J. P. Newnham et al., "Doppler Flow Velocity Wave Form Analysis in High Risk Pregnancies: A Randomised Controlled Trial," Br J Obstet Gynaecol 98, no. 10 (1991): 956-963.

32. C. R. Stark, M. Orleans, A. D. Havercamp et al., "Short and Long Term Risks after Exposure to Diagnostic Ultrasound in Utero," Obstet Gynecol 63 (1984): 194-200.

33. J. D. Campbell et al., "Case-control Study of Prenatal Ultrasonography in Children with Delayed Speech," Can Med Ass J 149, no. 10 (1993): 1435- 1440.

34. K. A. Salvesen, L. J. Vatten, S. H. Eik-nes et al., "Routine Ultrasonography in Utero and Subsequent Handedness and Neurological Development," British Medical Journal 307, no. 6897 (1993) 159-164.

35. H. Kieler, O. Axelsson, B. Haguland et al., "Routine Ultrasound Screening in Pregnancy and the Children's Subsequent Handedness," Early Human Development 50, no. 2 (1998): 233-245.

36. See Note 31.

37. K. A. Salvesen, L. S. Bakketeig, S. H. Eik-nes et al., "Routine Ultrasonography in Utero and School Performance at Age 8-9 Years," The Lancet 339, no. 8785 (1992):85-89.

38. H. Kieler, G. Ahlsten, B. Haguland et al., "Routine Ultrasound Screening in Pregnancy and the Children's Subsequent Neurological Development," Obstet Gynecol 91, no. 5 (1998): 750-756.

39. See Note 37.

40. H. B. Meire, "The Safety of Diagnostic Ultrasound," Br J Obstet Gynaecol 94 (1987): 1121-1122.

41. K. J. W. Taylor, "A Prudent Approach to Ultrasound Imaging of the Fetus and Newborn," Birth 17, no. 4 (1990): 218-223.

42. Barbara Katz Rothman, The Tentative Pregnancy: How Amniocentesis Changes the Experience of Motherhood (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993).

For more information on ultrasound, see the following articles in past issues of Mothering: "Ultrasound: More Harm Than Good?" no. 77; "The Trouble with Ultrasound," no. 57; "How Sound Is Ultrasound?" no. 34; "Ultrasound," no. 24; and "Diagnostic Ultrasound," no. 19.

Sarah Buckley (40) is a New Zealand-trained GP (family MD), and still in training as partner to Nicholas. Mother of Emma (9), Zoe (6), and Jacob (4), she is currently expecting her fourth baby and lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she writes about pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

Shadow of a doubt

by Rob Edwards

ULTRASOUND SCANS can stop cells from dividing and make them commit suicide. A research team in Ireland say this is the first evidence that routine scans, which have let doctors peek at fetuses and internal organs for the past 40 years, affect the normal cell cycle.

A team led by Patrick Brennan of University College Dublin gave 12 mice an 8-megahertz scan lasting for 15 minutes. Hospital scans, which reflect inaudible sound waves off soft tissue to produce images on a monitor, use frequencies of between 3 and 10 megahertz and can last for up to an hour

The researchers detected two significant changes in the cells of the small intestine in scanned mice compared to the mice that hadn't been scanned. Four and a half hours after exposure, there was a 22 per cent reduction in the rate of cell division, while the rate of programmed cell death or "apoptosis" had approximately doubled.

Brennan believes there will be similar effects in humans. "It has been assumed for a long time that ultrasound has no effect on cells," he says. "We now have grounds to question that assumption."

Brennan stresses, however, that the implications for human health are uncertain. "There are changes happening, but we couldn't say whether they are harmful or harmless," he explains. The intestine is a very adaptable organ that can compensate for alterations in the cell cycle, says Brennan.

It is possible that the sound waves damage the DNA in cells, delaying cell division and repair. Brennan suggests that ultrasound might be switching on the p53 gene which controls cell deaths. This gene, dubbed "the guardian of the genome", produces a protein that helps cells recognise DNA damage and then either self-destruct or stop dividing.

Studies in the early 1990s by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York and the Batelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington, showed that tissue heating due to ultrasound can cause bleeding in mouse intestines. Ultrasonographers now tune the power of scans to reduce such heating.

But Brennan's work is the first evidence that scans create changes in cells. "Our results are preliminary and need further investigation," he says. The team presented their results at the Radiology 1999 conference in Birmingham last month and are now preparing them for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Alex Elliott, a researcher in clinical physics at the University of Glasgow, thinks that Brennan's results are important and should be followed with further studies. "If the conditions of his experiments really compare to the clinical use of ultrasound," he says, "we may have to review the current safety limits."

From New Scientist, 12 June 1999

Here are some excerpts about ultrasound from "What Doctors Don't Tell You" by Lynne McTaggart. "No well controlled study has yet proved that routine scanning of prenatal patients will improve the outcome of pregnancy" - official statement from American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1984

Some studies show that, with ultrasound, you are more likely to lose your baby. A study from Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital in London found that women having doppler ultrasound were more likely to lose their babies than those who received only standard neonatal care (17 deaths to 7).

A Norwegian study of 2,000 babies found that those subjected to routine ultrasound scanning were 30% more likely to be left-handed than those sho weren't scanned. An Australian study demonstraates that frequent scans increased the proportion of growth-restricted babies by a third, resulting in a higher number of small babies. Exposure to ultrasound also caused delayed speech, according to Canadian researcher Professor James Campbell.

The International Childbirth Education Association has maintained that ultrasound is most likely to affect development (behavioral & neurological), blood cells, the immune system, & a child's genetic makeup.

Besides the safety issue, there are considerable questions about accuracy. There is a significant chance that your scan will indicate a problem when there isn't one, or fail to pick up aa problem actually there. One study found a "high rate" of false positives, 17% of the pregnant women scanned were shown to have small-for-dates babies, when only 6% actually did - an error rate of nearly one out of three. Another study from Harvard showed that among 3,100 scans, 18 babies were erroneously labeled abnormal, and 17 fetuses with problems were missed.


this is from another list...

According to Anne Frye, midwife and author of "Understanding Lab Work in the Childbearing Year" (4th Ed.)p. 405 Doppler Devices: Many women do not realize that doppler fetoscopes are ultrasound devices. (apparently, neither do many care providers. Time after time, women are assured by doctors and even some nurse midwives that a doppler is not an ultrasound device.) . . . .

Not well publicized for obvious reasons, doppler devices expose the fetus to more powerful ultrasound than real time (imaging) ultrasound exams. One minute of doppler exposure is equal to 35 minutes of real time ultrasound. This is an important point for women to consider when deciding between an ultrasound exam and listening with a doppler to determine viability in early pregnancy. . . . .

If you have a doppler, put it aside and make a concerted effort to learn to listen yourself! Save your doppler for those rare occasions when you cannot hear the heart rate late into pushing or to further investigate suspected fetal death. " copyright l990, Anne Frye, B.H. Holistic Midwifery.

Personally, after 23 years of attending births, I would not permit a doppler in my house if I were pregnant. You always know that something is ultrasound because there will be "jelly" involved. If you want a cheap listening device for the baby's heart just save the core from a roll of toilet paper. Put one end on the lower belly and the other on hubby's ear. If you want to know your baby is doing well, count the fetal movements in a day. Starting at 9 a.m. count each time the baby kicks. There should be l0 distinct movements by 3 p.m.

I think it's sad that some people will do anything to make a buck of the huge pregnant market in North America. Please feel free to forward this post on to any other lists.

Gloria Lemay, Vancouver BC
Wise Woman Way of Birth Courses


This made me wonder what ultrasound does to developing babies if it can have such a drastic effect on a testicle.

Prenatal Testing and Informed Consent: Base Your Choices on the Evidence By Peggy O'Mara
Issue 120, September/October 2003

The material in this post is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this email for purposes that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Sheri Nakken, R.N., MA, Classical Homeopath
Vaccination Information & Choice Network, Nevada City CA & Wales UK
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Effect of diagnostic ultrasound during the fetal period on learning and memory in mice

R. Suresh, a, , T. Ramesh Raoa, E.M. Davisa, Nikolai Ovchinnikova and A. Mc Raea

Annals of Anatomy - Anatomischer Anzeiger
Article in Press, Corrected Proof


An experiment was conducted to find out whether in utero exposure to diagnostic ultrasound leads to changes in postnatal behavior in adult mice.


A total of 15 pregnant Swiss albino mice were exposed to diagnostic levels of ultrasound (3.5 MHz, 65 mW/cm2, intensity(spatial peak−temporal peak) (ISPTP)=1 mW/cm2, intensity(spatial average−temporal average) (ISATA)=240 mW/cm2) for 30 min on day 14 or 16 of gestation. All exposed as well as control animals were left to complete gestation and parturition. Their offspring were used in our further studies. They were monitored during early postnatal life for standard developmental markers (such as pinna detachment, eye opening and fur development) and postnatal mortality was recorded up to 6 weeks of age. The litters were subjected to behavioral tests for learning and memory at 4 months of age. Representative animals from each group were sacrificed and the hippocampal region of the brain was assayed for biogenic amines, noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin (5-HT) and 5-HT's metabolite, 5-hydroxy indoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), in order to determine whether ultrasound exposure produced any biochemical changes in the hippocampal region of the brain. Coronal sections from the dorsal hippocampus from the representative animals from each group were processed for staining and the number of neurons was counted.


Neither the standard developmental markers (such as pinna detachment, eye opening and fur development) nor the postnatal mortality was affected by ultrasound exposure. However, there was a significant impairment in learning (hole board test) and memory functions (shuttle box test) in both the exposure groups. Significant reductions in the biogenic amines and the decrease in the neuronal density were found only in day 14th pc ultrasound-exposed group compared with the control animals. The 16th day exposure group is relatively resistant to ultrasound-induced impairment of brain functions.


The results suggest that the early fetal brain is highly susceptible to induction of neurobehavioral changes by ultrasound exposure.

Keywords: Behavior; Gestation; Ultrasound; Neurotoxicity

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 868 645 2640x4627(Off.)/1 868 645 2640x1863(Res.); fax: +1 868 662 9148.

Anatomy and Cell Biology Unit, Department of Preclinical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of The West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
Received 9 January 2007; accepted 13 May 2007. Available online 23 October 2007.

Above article received thanks to:
Sheri Nakken, former R.N., MA, Hahnemannian Homeopath
Vaccination Information & Choice Network, Nevada City CA & Wales UK
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Long-term effects of diagnostic ultrasound during fetal period on postnatal development and adult behavior of mouse
R. Suresha, P. Uma Devib, N. Ovchinnikova and A. McRaea
a Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medical Sciences University of West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago
b Department of Radiobiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India
Received 21 August 2001; accepted 18 January 2002. Available online 17 April 2002.

Pregnant Swiss albino mice were exposed to diagnostic levels of ultrasound (3.5 MHz, intensity 65 mW, ISPTP = 1 W/cm2, ISATA = 240 W/cm2) for 10, 20 and 30 minutes on day 14 of gestation. Sham exposed controls were maintained for comparison. Fifteen pregnant mice were exposed for each group. Exposed as well as control animals were left to complete gestation and parturition. Ultrasound induced changes in maternal vaginal temperature was recorded. The changes in the physiological reflexes and postnatal mortality up to 6 weeks of age were recorded. The litters were subjected to behavioral tests for locomotor activity, learning and memory at 4 month and 1 year of age. Neither the physiological reflexes nor the postnatal mortality was affected by ultrasound exposure. However, there was a noticeable impairment in both locomotor and learning behavior even after a 10 min exposure, which further increased with increases in exposure time. Thus the present study demonstrates the neurotoxicity of diagnostic ultrasound and the high susceptibility of early fetal brain to induction of lasting detrimental changes by ultrasound exposure.

Effect of prenatal ultrasound exposure on adult behavior in mice.

Hande MP, Devi PU, Karanth KS.

Department of Radiobiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India.

Pregnant Swiss mice were exposed to diagnostic levels of ultrasound (3.5 MHz, Maximum acoustic output: ISPTP = 1 W/cm2 and ISATA = 240 mW/cm2, acoustic power = 65 mW) for 10 min on days 11.5 or 14.5 postcoitus (PC). At 3 and 6 months postpartum, offspring were subjected to the following behavioral tests: bright and dark arena test for locomotor/exploratory activity and passive avoidance test for learning and memory. Anxiolytic activity and latency in learning were noticed in the ultrasound-treated animals. The effect was more pronounced in the 14.5 days PC group than in the 11.5 days PC group. But memory was not affected in the ultrasound-exposed animals. There was a nonsignificant decrease in the total locomotor activity at 6 months of age in all the exposed animals. Thus, the present data demonstrate that exposure to diagnostic ultrasound during late organogenesis period or early fetal period in mice may cause changes in postnatal behavior as evidence by selected adult offspring behavioral tests. However, any conclusive statement in this regard should await results from more detailed investigations.

PMID: 8302245 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
AlternaMoms Unite!

On the "safety" amd "usefulness" of prenatal ultrasound
"Researchers at University College in Dublin told New Scientist magazine it is too early to tell if the changes they found in the cells of mice are harmless or what the implications of the findings could be for humans."
The Dangers of Prenatal Ultrasound
Info about a book, Quotes, and Summaries of medical studies on the dangers of Ultrasound for prenatal imaging of an unborn baby.
Behavioral teratologic effects of prenatal exposure to continuous-wave ultrasound in unanesthetized rats
Wiley InterScience Abstract of study preformed in 1994