Have or Not to Have 3D 4D Ultrasound?

When 3d 4d ultrasound imaging centers first opened for business about 15-20 years ago, there were little questions for moms and dads-to-be about having those keepsakes. The difference between the traditional black and white 2d ultrasound images and color three-dimensional 3d images benefited a new technology. The pictures of the unborn babies looked so real that parents wanted to have a photo op right away. As time progressed, more and more parents became involved in the process of getting 3d keepsakes. People also wanted to know if 3d ultrasound is safe. Few critics, mostly from medical doctors, argued that new technology could do some harm to the fetus during the development state of women’s pregnancies.

Why some obstetricians discourage parents from having recreational ultrasound?

2d, 3d, and 4d ultrasounds use sound waves technology. Compare to x-rays, sound waves are completely harmless to human bodies. Some medical researches revealed harmful heating effects on the rats’ brain tissues when used extensively. However, because the matters of brains affected were so tiny that the data was not reliable and insufficient to apply to humans. As a result, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine’s issued the statement: “No confirmed biological effects on patients or instrument operators caused by exposure at intensities typical of present diagnostic ultrasound equipment have ever been reported.”

What is a government position on the safety of 3d 4d sonograms?

Some publications state that FDA discourages using ultrasound for recreational purposes. However, it is not exactly right. FDA site stated an opinion of one of the engineers. If quoted: “Although there is a lack of evidence of any harm due to ultrasound imaging and heartbeat monitors, prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important,” says Shahram Vaezy, Ph.D., an FDA biomedical engineer.” The key phrases are: “lack of evidence of any harm” and “ a prudent use” by trained professionals. The part of “lack of evidence of any harm” is self-explanatory. The “prudent use” is more speculative and needs more explanation. FDA expressed concerns that some “enterprises in the U.S commercializing ultrasonic imaging by making fetal keepsake videos,” and the videos were too long. That is not the case with regular 3d 4d ultrasound imaging centers. Most of those facilities provide ultrasound sessions that range from several minutes, such as gender determination packages, to up to 20-30 minutes of their most deluxe and expensive packages. 

Why non-diagnostic imaging centers use only professional sonographers?

GE Ultrasound System Voluson 730

“Prudent use” concern is even less practical and applicable in real life. There are none of the imaging centers where non-professionals personnel are allowed to use those ultrasound machines. First, there is a possibility to physically harm patients by non-certified technicians that, by itself, would provide a substantial financial liability for the owners. The other aspect is the high cost of the ultrasound equipment. Ultrasound systems from GE, Samsung, Phillips, and other companies could run up to several hundreds of dollars. The owners would be the first line of defense to protect their investments. As a result, all ultrasound technicians or sonographers are appropriately licensed before they can provide service. 

How to become a licensed ultrasound technician.

Ultrasound Technician performing a session

The usual way to become an ultrasound technician is to get enrolled in accredited Sonography programs, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP ) has the accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. The advantage of this program is that students can sit for the ARDMS exam right after graduation.  Ultrasound technicians have extensive and rigorous training while they are in college. The time of getting a license is about two years. Highly experienced and trained instructors provide students with theoretical and practical aspects of the profession. The critical part of the program curriculum is the practical skills that students obtained working with volunteers. As a result, the graduates are fully prepared after passing the ARDMS exam to work as sonographers. Below are some examples of the most affordable colleges in Southern California for the accredited Sonography programs.

Cypress College; Merced College; Santa Barbara City College; Orange Coast College.

Let’s talk about the cost of ultrasound sessions and the quality of images and videos in the next blog.      

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