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Gimlet eye on fetal-ultrasound-scan boom


Is this another medical profit center that needs considerably more limits?

The Wall Street Journal reports that “women have been getting fetal ultrasound scans at sharply higher rates than before, and parents have turned the images of their unborn into fixtures of social media.”

“In 2014, usage in the U.S. of the most common fetal-ultrasound procedures averaged 5.2 per delivery, up 92% from 2004, according to an analysis of data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by FAIR Health Inc., a nonprofit aggregator of insurance claims. Some women report getting scans at every doctor visit during pregnancy.

“But medical experts are now warning that frequent scans in low-risk pregnancies aren’t medically justified. A joint statement in May 2014 from several medical societies, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, calls for one or two ultrasounds in low-risk, complication-free pregnancies.”

More problematically:

“Some animal experiments have suggested ill effects of ultrasound on embryos of mice and chickens. And multiple fetal ultrasounds can raise false alarms, including overestimation of fetal size that can lead to potentially unnecessary caesarean deliveries. ‘Increased use of prenatal ultrasound scanning may be contributing to the rising CD [caesarean delivery] rate,’ said a 2012 paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.”


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