Prenatal care is a crucial process in ensuring the health and well-being of expectant mothers and their unborn babies. As sonographers, navigating the intricacies of pregnancy ultrasounds, requires technical expertise and a deep understanding of the emotional needs of expectant mothers. In this blog, we will delve into the complexities of pregnancy ultrasounds and explore how technology can help you enhance your pregnancy ultrasounds.
Why are pregnancy ultrasounds so complex?
Pregnancy ultrasounds are a dynamic process that necessitates attention to detail because of:
- Fetal Anatomical Variability by Gestational Age: Each pregnancy is unique, and fetal anatomy can vary significantly, making it challenging to identify structures accurately.
- Position of the Fetus: The position of the fetus in the uterus can influence the visualization of specific structures during the ultrasound examination.
- Distinguishing Between Fetuses: Multiple pregnancies, such as twins or triplets, pose unique challenges in differentiating between individual fetuses and tracking their distinct growth and development accurately.
- Maternal Factors: With increasing maternal BMI, anomaly detection in fetuses during both standard and targeted ultrasonography decreases significantly. Obese women show at least a 20% lower detection rate than those with normal BMI. Also, certain types of skin, scars, or stretch marks can also interfere with ultrasound exploration.
- Time Constraints and Prolonged Scanning Sessions: Sonographers often work in busy clinical settings with a high volume of patients, leading to time constraints for each ultrasound examination. The discovery of fetal anomalies, the presence of maternal risk factors, and the difficult conditions of certain examinations will upset their schedule
Along with that, the repetitive nature of ultrasound procedures can lead to physical and mental fatigue.
The list of the factors that explain the complexity of pregnancy ultrasounds continues…
Fortunately, technological advancements and ongoing professional development help sonographers navigate these complexities, secure the practice, and provide the best possible care to expectant mothers and their unborn babies.
How technology is helping sonographers focus and decreasing fatigue?
Advancements in technology have revolutionized the field of fetal ultrasound scans, empowering them to enhance their focus and reduce fatigue during examinations. Some of them are:
High-resolution ultrasound systems offer improved image quality, ensuring sharper and more accurate images of the fetal anatomy, especially with high-frequency probes. The increased image resolution helps them visualize subtle anatomical details and abnormalities better. With high-resolution imaging, sonographers efficiently capture essential images without the need for repeated scans, ultimately reducing patient discomfort and examination time and optimizing management in the event of fetal or maternal pathology.
Advanced Imaging Technologies
Three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound technologies have revolutionized the visualization of the fetus during pregnancy ultrasounds. Unlike traditional 2D images, 3D ultrasound provides a detailed, three-dimensional view of the fetal anatomy, allowing sonographers to see the fetus from various angles. The 3D reconstruction image can be particularly useful because it makes it possible to obtain a view that is sometimes impossible to obtain due to the fetal position, for example. It makes it possible to refine the diagnosis or to calculate the volume of an organ in the event of certain anomalies
This enhanced visualization aids in identifying and assessing fetal structures with greater accuracy. Additionally, 4D ultrasound provides real-time movement of the fetus, giving sonographers a dynamic view of the baby’s movements, facial expressions, and even heartbeats. These technologies reduce scanning time and provide more comprehensive insights into fetal development.
Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms have been integrated into modern ultrasound machines to automate routine measurements during fetal ultrasound scans.
These algorithms accurately measure fetal biometry, growth parameters, and other essential metrics without the need for manual calipers and measurements. Automating these routine tasks saves time and reduces the fatigue associated with repetitive tasks and therefore the risk of human error, enabling midwives, midwife sonologists, sonographers, and OB-GYN doctors to focus on more complex aspects of the examination.
By providing real-time feedback and highlighting areas of concern, AI helps sonographers prioritize their attention and focus on critical aspects of the ultrasound examination, thereby bringing accuracy and diagnostic confidence. The advancing technology has now introduced software that extracts images with unusual structures from the ultrasound clips and even labels them.
AI-assisted software aids them in detecting potential fetal anomalies. These advanced algorithms analyze ultrasound images and identify subtle signs of abnormalities that might be challenging to detect visually (unusual shape of an organ part, absence of an anatomical element normally present on a view).
Technology to Share Ultrasound Images and Videos
Modern technology has facilitated the sharing of ultrasound images and videos, allowing sonographers to collaborate with other healthcare professionals, consult specialists, and seek second opinions remotely. This technology enables quick consultations, reduces the need for physical referrals, and facilitates seamless collaboration among healthcare teams.
The medical care of pregnant women and fetuses is thus more efficient with very positive consequences in terms of morbidity and even maternal and infant mortality. Which will further strengthen the patient relationship.
Also, this provides a solution for teleconsultations in the context of medical deserts.
With specialized software to securely send ultrasound images and videos to expectant parents, sonographers enhance the quality of care delivered to expectant mothers.
Checklists for Assurance in Ultrasound Examinations
The complexity of pregnancy ultrasounds, with multiple planes to capture and numerous images to take, can be overwhelming. In such situations, checklists prove to be invaluable tools that offer peace of mind and assurance. Checklists provide a systematic and standardized approach to ultrasound examinations, ensuring no essential structures or measurements are overlooked.
By following a comprehensive checklist, sonographers are confident that they have captured all the necessary images, assessed critical anatomical structures, and performed the required measurements. This systematic approach not only enhances efficiency during the examination but also contributes to accurate and consistent documentation. Moreover, the use of checklists reduces the likelihood of oversight and improves patient safety by promoting adherence to best practices and guidelines. This is also a key element from a medico-legal point of view.”
Technology has transformed pregnancy ultrasound practice, reducing fatigue, and enhancing focus during pregnancy ultrasounds. In addition, it provides increased opportunities for building stronger patient relationships due to the additional time and availability.
Advanced imaging technologies, AI-powered automation, and tools for image and video sharing streamline the examination process, allowing healthcare sonographers to provide efficient maternal and fetal care with heightened attention to detail.