Moving images of a baby in the womb

June 22, 2009 2:44:08 PM PDT
The 4D ultrasound gives realistic pictures of your yet-to-be-born baby. It's so accurate you'll recognize your baby when it's born. Some doctors think of the 4D as a gimmick, saying it gives them little medical information. The pictures are so good that mothers to be have sought these 4D ultrasound shots out in shopping malls just to have them for the baby albums.

"I can see how he's going to look when he's born," said first time mom Patricia Diaz.

LBJ is one of the first Houston hospitals to have a 4D ultrasound and Patricia Diaz got to see her little boy for the first time through the 4D technology. Here's the difference in standard ultrasound and 4D.

The main ultrasound doctors use for information is 2D. The 4D is simply 3D with movement.

But these cute pictures have made 4D ultrasounds controversial in the medical world. Are they a toy or are they medically necessary? UT Houston OB-GYN Dr. Joan Mastrobattista says the 4D can find birth defects that other scans didn't show.

"If there's a cleft lip they can have an idea, ok that's what that looks like," said the doctor. "It helps in some cases with parental bonding. In other cases it gives information, how do the hands look, how do the feet look is there an extra finger?"

LBJ hospital has been ahead of the game on 4D technology. It's had it for some five years. The technology has been available for a decade. It's only recently that new uses are being discovered. Another use is to look for problems with shape of the uterus or fibroids.

"Although you can see fibroids and uterine shape on 2D ultrasound, 3D the image is enhanced," said Dr. Mastrobattista.

"I'm going to put them in a photo album," Diaz said.

Doctors warn women not to have ultrasounds just for the photos. Although it's considered safe, one study found a slight risk to the baby's brain from frequent ultrasounds. Doctors also recommend getting ultrasounds in a medical institution where the power settings on the machines are monitored.

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