What You Should Know About the Anatomy Ultrasound:
What Is Anatomy Scan?
Anatomy scan is a diagnostic test used to detect abnormalities or disease in various organs. It includes both sonographic (X-ray) and computed tomography (CT). A CT scan uses X rays while a sonogram uses light waves. Both methods are very effective in diagnosing diseases, but they have different advantages and disadvantages.
The main advantage of a CT scan is its ability to show details of internal structures like bones, arteries, veins, nerves and other tissues. CT scans can even reveal tumors in some cases.
However, it’s not always possible to perform a CT scan because there may be too much tissue blocking the view. For example if someone had cancer or another disease that makes it difficult for them to breathe normally.
Another disadvantage of a CT scan is that it requires a trained technician to do the procedure. Also, the radiation exposure from the scan can cause discomfort or pain during certain parts of the exam.
How Does An Anatomy Scan Work?
A sonogram shows images through special lenses placed over your eyes and a computer program analyzes these images to create 3D pictures of your body. The computer then compares these pictures with those taken before and after the procedure.
During the procedure, the sonographer will put a special gel over your stomach and then slide the transducer over it. The transducer sends out high-frequency sound waves that bounce back to create an image of your body on a computer screen.
The sound waves can be affected or distorted by anything abnormal in your body. The sonographer will look for anything unusual in your baby’s development or any potential problems with your organs.
You may feel some minor cramping during the procedure but it should subside within a few minutes. Other than that, this process is completely painless and safe for both mother and baby.
When Is an Anatomy Scan Done?
An anatomy scan is typically done around the 18th to 20th week of pregnancy. This is also called a mid-pregnancy ultrasound, dating scan or anomaly scan.
It’s important to remember that every pregnancy and every baby is different so the exact week that anatomy scan should be done varies from case to case. If you’re concerned about the health of your unborn child, you can ask your doctor for an earlier ultrasound if you’d prefer.
Your baby will be between 16 and 20 inches long at this point and weigh about 3 pounds. This is also the point where the baby’s basic physical form will be completely developed.
Your sonographer will look for any potential problems with your baby’s brain, spinal cord, heart, abdomen and limbs.
The anatomy scan can sometimes detect birth defects or illnesses that aren’t immediately life threatening, but may need medical attention later in life. For this reason, it’s important to go over the images with your doctor and ask all the questions you have about your baby’s health.
What Can Go Wrong With the Procedure?
Anatomy scans are one of the safest medical procedures you can have and are completely safe for both mother and baby. You will need to refrain from eating or drinking for a few hours before the procedure though.
If you have any existing medical conditions or take any medications, let your sonographer know before the procedure begins.
What are the Risks if the Baby Is Sick?
In most cases, a problematic anatomy scan will result in a C-section being scheduled before the baby is ready to be born. A C-section completely eliminates the risk of a vaginal birth and can potentially save the life of both mother and baby.
If the problem is serious enough, it can also be a life or death situation for the baby. This is less common but still a possibility.
In this case, induction would be scheduled instead and the baby will be delivered as soon as possible.
What if I Have an Older Child?
Anatomy scans aren’t just for first-time parents. Even if you’ve had children before, it’s always a good idea to get an anatomy scan. This will allow your sonographer to look for any potential problems and catch anything that might be wrong early on.
Older children can even come in handy for the anatomy scan! Your older kids will enjoy seeing the tiny heart beating inside you and watching the screen as the baby moves around.
Your older children will also benefit from having a younger sibling to look after when you’re not able to. Children can’t wait to become big brothers or sisters!
What if I Have Twins or Multiples?
If you’re expecting more than one baby, your sonographer will scan all of the babies at the same time. This is called a multifetal pregnancy and there are specific risks involved.
If you have identical twins then your risk factors are slightly higher than with non-identical twins. If you fall into this category then it’s very important that you have regular checkups every four to six weeks.
Your doctor will also keep a close eye on your fluid levels and ensure that you don’t have preterm labor.
With non-identical twins, your risk factors are lower but not non-existent. Again, you’ll be having regular checkups every four to six weeks but your doctor will be keeping a closer eye on the growth of all the babies.
What if Something Is Wrong With the Baby?
The most common problems that cause a baby to need an immediate C-section at birth is fetal distress. This can happen if there’s not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, or if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s body or neck.
Another serious problem that causes fetal distress is when the baby doesn’t have a strong heartbeat. This could mean that the baby has a life-threatening condition and will not survive outside of the womb.
If this is the case, a C-section will need to be scheduled immediately in order to save the mother’s life.
When Should I Get an Ultrasound Scan?
Most women will have their first ultrasound scan between weeks 18 and 20. This is to check the heartbeat and ensure that the baby is growing properly. Other tests can be carried out using an ultrasound scan including abdominal bleeding, kidney stones and gall stones.
Your sonographer will start by cleaning your stomach with a water-based gel. The scanner emits sound waves which reflect back off your internal organs and are displayed on a monitor.
This allows the sonographer to measure the baby’s size, check for any physical abnormalities and listen for the heartbeat.
The sonographer will also take some notes of the measurements and then prepare a report for your doctor. Your doctor will use this report to decide whether you need any additional tests or treatments.
What if I Need Further Tests or Treatments?
Your doctor will schedule an extra ultrasound scan to ensure that the baby is growing properly. You may also be referred to a perinatologist. This is a specialist who deals with high-risk pregnancies. He or she will want to see you more frequently and perform more tests on you.
If the perinatologist feels that your baby may have a problem, he or she may suggest additional testing. For example, if you’re over the age of 35 and your baby shows signs of slowed development it may be diagnosed with Downs Syndrome or another chromosomal abnormality.
If this is the case, it’s important that you understand all of the treatment options open to you and the pros and cons of each one. For example, you may be given the option to have amniocentesis in order to diagnose the condition more accurately.
If you decide to have this test, a doctor will use a long, thin needle to extract amniotic fluid from around the baby. A sample of this fluid will be tested to determine if your baby has Downs Syndrome or another condition.
This test carries a risk of miscarriage between 0.5% and 1%.
Only have this procedure if you’re prepared for the possibility of losing your baby.
The perinatologist may also refer you to a pediatric cardiologist. This doctor will want to see you more frequently and perform more tests on your baby.
For example, your baby may need to have their heart measured to make sure it’s growing at the right pace. If your baby is over the age of three, a pediatric cardiologist may recommend an echo cardiogram, which uses ultrasound to measure the blood flow through the heart.
The pediatric cardiologist may suggest that you monitor the baby’s heartbeat at home using a portable fetal monitor. This involves placing two small stickers on your stomach.
The baby’s heartbeat is then measured using an external device called a doppler. You can listen to your baby’s heartbeat whenever you want using this device. If anything seems abnormal, you should contact your doctor immediately as this could mean that the umbilical cord has become wrapped around the baby’s neck.
The fetal monitor can also be used to detect whether the baby is in distress. The monitor can pick up the slightest changes in your baby’s heart rate, even if you cannot.
If the fetal monitor picks up a drop in the baby’s heart rate, you may experience a sharp pain in your lower abdomen as the baby draws its legs up to its chest in a reflex action. This condition is known as a non-stress test (NST).
If you experience an NST, you may be asked to undergo a contraction-type test (CTG). For this test, a belt is wrapped around your abdomen and attached to a machine.
As the baby’s heartbeat is measured by the CTG machine, you will be given an injection of a substance called oxytocin. This mimics the effect of labor contractions and helps to strengthen your baby’s heartbeat.
If the baby’s heartbeat increases, it shows that the baby is in no distress. If the heartbeat does not increase with this contraction-type stimulus, you may be admitted to hospital and given terbutaline through an intravenous line to strengthen the contractions and give the baby an extra boost.
If this does not work, you may be advised to have a C-section.
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