Ultrasound exams are some of the most common and well-known through pregnancy, and the technology has advanced considerably in the past several years. Dr. Ana Monteagudo, an OB/GYN and ultrasound expert, explained the evolution of ultrasound technology on our Healthful Woman podcast. Listen to that episode or continue reading to learn more.
In the recent past, ultrasound technology was limited to two-dimensional ultrasound which often produced images that were difficult to interpret. Dr. Monteagudo explains that as a medical student and resident, “you had to look at the screen and try to somehow have a good imagination to be able to see what your professors were telling you.” The first significant improvement to ultrasound technology came with 3D ultrasound in the 1990s, which allows doctors to much more clearly see internal structures and make more accurate diagnoses.
In addition to being safe for both the mother and baby, one of the major benefits of ultrasound in obstetrics is the ability to see structures in motion. This makes it possible to see, for example, the heart while it is in motion. These images help obstetricians to more clearly assess development throughout a pregnancy.
In addition, ultrasound can help to accurately examine the internal body without an invasive procedure. Dr. Monteagudo explains through this example: “Let’s say that a patient comes in and she has specific pain, let’s say, near her belly button. We can actually take the probe, put it near the belly button, and see what is below that area that she’s having pain. Maybe she has a little fibroid there.”
Dr. Monteagudo says that in obstetrics, “many people think of 3D ultrasound as pretty baby faces. But I think the ultrasound is more than that, it has…revolutionized the diagnosis.”
Seeing a third dimension helps to more accurately locate structures compared to 2D ultrasounds. “For example, if we do a 3D ultrasound of the uterus on someone who has a fibroid, we are able to exactly see where the fibroid is in relationship to the front, the back, the bottom of the uterus,” says Dr. Monteagudo. At the same time, 3D ultrasound is non-invasive and painless, and the exam is the same as a 2D ultrasound for the patient.
In addition to 3D ultrasounds, transvaginal ultrasounds are also beneficial. This exam utilizes an ultrasound wand that is inserted into the vagina to more closely examine the uterus. A transvaginal ultrasound can be used to evaluate the anatomy and development of the fetal brain, especially throughout the first trimester, or to diagnose issues like placenta previa. Dr. Fox explains that because “you could get the probe within a couple of centimeters of the cervix, the edge of the placenta, where the bladder is, and then the baby’s head, which is normally down there. And so, you can get much, much more detailed images of the fetal brain.”
To learn more about your ultrasound options or to meet with one of our OB/GYNs, schedule an appointment at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates by calling (212) 235-1335 or contacting us online.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!