Ultrasound is used routinely for fetal imaging worldwide. However, myriad studies have demonstrated that ultrasound exposure causes changes in cognition, sociability, and development in animal models. There is a culture of blithe acceptance that prenatal ultrasounds are completely harmless because they are so ubiquitous in our society, but this is untrue. Sonographers who utilize ultrasound for non-medically indicated purposes (vanity scanning, for example) are endangering childrens' health.
[Relevant citations: Prenatal ultrasound alters learning and memory in young rats, Prenatal ultrasound alters normal mouse brain development, Low-intensity ultrasound energy applied to rat testes alters testosterone levels, Ultrasound alters cell growth, Ultrasound sensitizes hearing of infants, Prenatal ultrasound alters sociability in mice, Prenatal ultrasound negatively affects mouse cognition]
Many doctors will prescribe ultrasounds for non-medically indicated purposes (money, vanity, etc). In some clinics they are treated just like family photos; keepsake images and hour long ultrasound videos are advertised as perfectly harmless. This is an egregious and unfounded mistruth that completely disregards the ALARA principle -- a core tenant of radiology that emphasizes using ultrasound only when medically necessary, and as little as possible for the safety of the delicate developing fetus. [Citation: Proliferation of Prenatal Sonography]
I have included some more detailed information below that can help lead you to further readings, or you can watch the YouTube series to be walked through some relevant scientific literature: Is Prenatal Sonography Safe? YouTube playlist
Join us on Facebook for questions and check out all of the amazing comments left by people who have signed this petition: We Need Safer Sonography Facebook group
THREE MAJOR ISSUES IN SONOGRAPHY:
(1) Sonographers do not record much information about scans that they perform, and this complicates epidemiology. Researchers cannot link health outcomes to amount of ultrasound exposure in general clinical settings. This obstacle prevents us from truly understanding the risks of prenatal sonography on humans. [Consider the concerns raised at the website of Dr. David Toms, a practicing radiologist, and the website www.ultrasound-autism.org -- an independent site tracking known ultrasound side effects research]
(2) Nearly half of all medical ultrasound units in clinical circulation are defective. A defective unit may have a worse picture, requiring extra exposure in order to make a diagnosis. More frequent maintenance of ultrasound units would not only be prudent for safety, it would also promote engineering and tech jobs which could help the ailing economy. [Relevant citations: High incidence of defective equipment in circulation, Annual calibration is not sufficient]
(3) Vanity ultrasounds clinics serve no medical purpose and should not be patroned. These privately run clinics offer long duration, high definition movies without consideration to safety limits. Ultrasound for fetal use should be only performed by professionals trained in proper safety techniques and up-to-date with current research. [Relevant citations: Ultrasound is safe, right?, Clinical end users show poor understanding of ultrasound safety]
** Please read the testimonials of scientists, practitioners, professionals, and parents whom have signed this petition and left comments:
Dr. Manuel Casanova, MD – Neuropathologist, autism researcher, founding member of the John Hopkins and National Institute of Mental Health pathological brain bank units, and now Gottfried and Gisela Kolb Endowed Chair in Outpatient Psychiatry and Professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. The University of Louisville, Kentucky
“Ultrasound was deregulated and energy levels were increased without proper safety studies being performed. There is evidence that besides thermal and cavitation effects ultrasound may provide for redox and membrane permeability changes. A significant number of ultrasound transducers in clinical practice are defective and end users seem unknowledgeable about the safety margins of their equipment. Ultrasound is now being used far beyond the safety recommendations of imaging boards for non-risk cases. There should be more studies on this matter and the technique should be regulated to enforce safety concerns.”
Dr. Diana Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN – Rudin professor, emeritus of the American Journal of Nursing, and now Co-Director of the Hunter College Center for Health, Media, and Policy, www.centerforhealthmediapolicy.com. New York, New York.
”I'm concerned about the rise in autism, including with my extended family. First Do No Harm should be the mantra that we all adopt. I'm concerned about the proliferation of the perspective that fetal ultrasound is like a regular photo, when it's not. We must change public perceptions about the potential dangers of fetal ultrasound and call for more research immediately.”
Dr. John Chiles, MD – Radiologist. Raleigh, North Carolina
“As a radiologist I have been concerned about over utilization of imaging procedures and ultrasound in pregnancy is a prime example. A way of controlling this would be for insurance companies to pay for the equivalent of one ultrasound per pregnancy but the obstetrician could perform as many as he or she felt were necessary. Another way would be to increase the price for obstetric care which would include all the in-office ultrasounds.”
Dr. Reginold Moore, MD – Family medicine. Hickory, North Carolina
“If there is any possibility that prenatal ultrasound can be linked to the increasing problem with Autism Spectrum Disorders it should be researched further and practitioners using Ultrasound should be cautioned to consider the risks and benefits before performing. There may be a greater risk during the fetal developmental period (1st trimester) after which ultrasound is significantly safer and beneficial. Medicine needs these answers.”
Dr. William Brandon, PhD – Physicist. Pembroke, North Carolina
“We should always be suspect of "lucrative" medical procedures - particularly when supported through insurance policies. Consider this - all biological tissue in the region of ultrasound exposure vibrates at the frequency of the ultrasound wave, leading to a myriad of complex and potentially harmful side effects.”
Parrish Hirasaki, MSME - Engineer with experience in industrial heat and systems management, and web manager of http://www.ultrasound-autism.org/, Dickinson, Texas
“I am an engineer who is certain that overexposure during ultrasound is causing brain damage. It does in rats - why not humans?”
Nancy Evans, BS - Health science consultant. San Francisco, California
“Ultrasound exposes the brain of the developing fetus to heat, vibration, and high intensity sound. Prenatal ultrasound is being performed in unregulated non-medical settings (shopping mall boutiques selling "keepsake" sonograms). It is not a risk-free procedure and women need to know that.”
Cindy Sage, MA – SAGE Design. Santa Barbara, California
“One thing that should be halted is the now-routine use of ultrasound twice within two weeks to check for signs the fetus may have Downs syndrome. The neck is scanned twice... in two weeks... to gauge the neck thickness. Can you imagine the exposure to such a small area of the brainstem - it is entirely avoidable since there is a new and reliable blood test. Stop ultrasounds for this procedure.”
Laura Blumenstiel - Mother
"I have two children, and although my pregnancies were both high risk for various reasons (generally my health during pregnancy), I feel that the number of ultrasounds scheduled was excessive. I probably had close to 10 in my first pregnancy, and had at least two per week for the last two months of my second pregnancy. Scare tactics were used by my doctor any time I questioned the need for so many, including the claim that he needed to be "prepared" in case my babies were born with conditions that required immediate treatment. They were not. I genuinely believe that some OB's see high risk pregnancies as a cash cow. Certainly mine did."
Brenda Hinton - GREY LYNN, NEW ZEALAND
"Obstetric practices in NZ follow close on the heels of those in larger countries like the USA. Most women in NZ now have at least 4 ultrasound scans during their pregnancy with at least 2 of these being performed in the first trimester. In NZ most women access fully subsidized pregnancy/maternity care and those who pay privately for obstetric care still have their (usually much greater number of) scans publicly subsidized. The continuing increase in ultrasound scanning is greatly increasing the cost of maternity care to the NZ taxpayer with no commensurate improvement in outcomes. Like the rest of the developed world, where ultrasound is readily available, we are seeing an increase in autistic spectrum disorders and also things like tongue and lip tie. More regulation, research and consumer education is urgently needed. We hope the USA will lead the charge to ensure the safety of this overused technology."
Michelle Hughes - PFLUGERVILLE, TX
"As a CNM, I frequently have patients upset or disappointed that we don't do frequent US. I try to explain that US has proven effects on fetus, but it makes little impression on them, since no one has ever heard of this. I agree more research is needed, as well as mainstream education."
There are a number of safety issues that scientists and professionals are growing concerned about in the field of Ob-Gyn ultrasonography. A petition has been created at the website http://www.change.org/petitions/health-risks-of-prenatal-ultrasound-the-urgent-need-for-more-research-and-regulation that has collected a number of signatures from professionals including doctors and scientists from relevant fields.
Please consider taking the time to read the petition and the comments left by the signers. Addressing the issues described therein shows promise for job creation, along with the direct benefits of ensuring the safety of children.
Thank you very much for your time.