The World of Pregnancy

3D & 4D Ultrasounds: What Happens during the Procedure?

Ultrasounds used in obstetrics and gynecology consist in examination using ultrasounds performed during pregnancy. From their introduction at the end of 1950s until our times when 3D (4D) ultrasounds are now available in most hospitals and private clinics, ultrasonography has become a very useful diagnostic instrument in obstetrics.

3D & 4D Ultrasounds

What Is an 3D (4D) Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is the method through which you can view different anatomical structures using ultrasounds. The principle is similar to sonar and consists in the issuance of ultrasounds by a special transducer. These ultrasounds are reflected by the anatomical structures encountered, and then received and converted into a scale of monochrome tones on the monitor. Ultrasounds are mechanical vibrations with frequencies of over 20,000 Hz, imperceptible by human hearing, and which are harmless for the anatomical structures encountered.

Currently, ultrasound is the main screening method in medicine due to the advantages offered: the rapidity of obtaining a positive or exclusion diagnosis, it isn`t harmful, the possibility of repetition, practically unlimited as number of examination or time, getting different and multiple plans of examination of the same organ, and low prince and maintenance.

How Does a 3D Ultrasound Work?

3D ultrasounds offer us three-dimensional images (length, width, height) of what we want to examine. They use the same type of ultrasounds as 2D ultrasounds (two-dimensional), but reflected in more angles. The ultrasound transducer scans a series of images, fine slices of the subject, and the computer process these images and present them as a three-dimensional image. The operator obtains images by utilizing computer commands which otherwise wouldn`t be able to display with the 2D ultrasound.

3D ultrasounds are particularly involved in the prenatal examination of mothers and not only: the 3D models of any commercial product are more advanced than their less actual “relatives.” 3D ultrasounds require special ultrasound transducers and specialized software to gather and reproduce 3D images, the time of reply shrinking from a few minutes to a few fractions of seconds when ultra-advanced devices are concerned.

A 3D image with a good resolution is often impressive for parents. From 3D images can be extracted 2D scans. The volumetric measures are more precise with 3D examinations, and both doctors and parents can appreciate more a certain abnormality or its absence. This way is possible to create a special psychological connection between the parent and future baby.

There are lots of studies regarding the undisputed utility of a 3D ultrasound, while the diagnosis of congenital abnormalities gets more attention. It was already proved that congenital defects that are more difficult to detect by ultrasound, such as spina bifida, cleft palate and polydactyly can be demonstrated more clearly by 3D ultrasounds. Other features that are more subtle, such as ears that are positioned a bit below, facial dysmorphia or congenital club foot (varus equine) can be evaluated more easily, which makes the diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities a lot more efficient. It`s the same thing in the case of cardiac malformations. However, there are also limitations of the method: the undisputed utility of the sonogram depends by the demonstrated abilities of the doctor, the amount of amniotic fluid around the fetus, the fetal position, the degree of obesity of the pregnant woman, so there isn`t always a guarantee of a satisfying image.

3D ultrasounds are superior types of examination to 2D ultrasounds, and are more and more used in the last few years. These ultrasounds use advanced equipment capable to offer a series of images of superior quality (photographic) of the fetus.

The investigation is superior in the evaluation of congenital abnormalities, such as spina bifida or cleft palate, but it isn`t performed as a routine examination because a 3D ultrasound cost is expensive. This type of ultrasounds is available in some university hospitals and private clinics, the investigation being quite costly.

A lot of times parents choose these types of ultrasounds because of the clear 3D ultrasound images that they offer, having a great emotional impact on the parents. Even though from the morphologic point of view a 3D ultrasound can offer false information, lots of parents choose them for the reason described above.

How Much Is a 3D Ultrasound?

If you would be interested in having 3D ultrasound images at home with you, take a look in the yellow book or online and check what type of business they provide. Generally speaking, the expenses are between $100 – $300, depending on the chosen packages. Some businesses offer promotions on special days, such as “Tuesdays All Packages for as Low as $99.” You can also call them to check if you can get a special discount.

What Is a 4D Ultrasound?

Recently, 4D ultrasounds appeared on the market (length, width, height and time) or 3D dynamic ultrasounds, making possible to see the fetal movements before he was born, which contributed at the increase in popularity of this methods for parents. It`s known to have a strong catalyst effect of building a special relationship between the mother and baby even before birth. 4D ultrasounds are recommended between 26 and 32 weeks of pregnancy to ensure an excellent quality of the displayed images as the animated facial movements are the best represented during this period. – Check this out!

A lot of doctors don`t consider 3D and 4D ultrasounds mandatory for prenatal examination in detriment of the conventional 2D ultrasounds, but even recommend to parents to consider them additional instruments, such as a  Doppler ultrasound. Lots of diagnoses will still be put based on the 2D evaluation of pregnancy. 3D ultrasounds seem to have an increased potential in research and the study of embryology.

What Happens when Performing an Ultrasound?

One of the most important stages in prenatal checking involves the visit to the sonographer (ultrasonographer), a healthcare professional who will most certainly become your friend over the next few months. To convince yourself that there`s no reason to worry regarding any discomfort that you may experience while performing the ultrasound, here`s how performing an ultrasound goes:

  • You`ll be lying down on the examination table covered or not with paper rolls. For a standard ultrasound, the doctor will apply a gel on your belly which will allow the propagation of ultrasounds, then he`ll move along your abdomen an ultrasound transducer. The gel will help in transmitting the waves from the transducer in your body.
  • The ultrasounds will encounter your body`s structures and the baby from your uterus, and the transducer will receive the waves that return, being then reconstructed in an image displayed on a monitor. The white or grey areas from the displayed images represent bones and tissues, while the dark areas indicate the liquid, such as the amniotic liquid from around your baby. You`ll probably find it hard at first to distinguish your baby from these images, but the doctor will help you recognize him. You`ll receive printed copies of the images at the end of the medical consultation, which usually lasts around 20 minutes.
  • It`s possible to be asked to have a full bladder when needing to perform the ultrasound, which may cause you some sort of discomfort. You`ll not sense the sound waves in any way, only the transducer may create a bit of pressure on your belly, but this won`t represent a real discomfort. You`ll hear the sound waves and the heart beats of your baby with the help of the monitor. If the pregnancy is bigger than 18 weeks, it`s also possible for the baby to sense some of the vibrations that accompany the procedure, but it won`t affect him any way.
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One Response to 3D & 4D Ultrasounds: What Happens during the Procedure?

  • It’s interesting to see how ultra sounds work. It’s interesting that they can see so much more nowadays! Being able to see a 3D image of your baby before it’s born seems amazing.

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