Fetal ultrasounds have long been a part of the overall monitoring of expecting mothers to ensure their babies are growing at the proper rate and to identify any issues with the fetus that may require immediate medical attention. While ultrasounds have traditionally provided 2D images, modern technology of today has allowed for much more detailed and life-like 3D and even 4D images of fetus thanks to high-resolution ultrasound.
This specialized type of ultrasound is generally performed between week 19 and 22 gestation by certified sonographers and physicians at a specialty center. The ability of ultrasounds to detect any physical variations is impacted by gestational age, the fetus’ position, and the ability to obtain clear images. High resolution ultrasound can typically determine any developmental changes or birth defects, as there is a 3% to 4% chance of birth defect in all pregnancies. If a previous pregnancy resulted in a birth defect or if there is a family history of birth defects or genetic syndrome, the risk for birth defects may be increased.
During the high-resolution fetal ultrasound, pregnancies are assessed for any presence or absence of certain ultrasound markers, many of which are often seen in healthy pregnancies and have no clinical significance. However, any presence of a marker can increase the odds of a chromosome disorder.
Should an ultrasound marker be identified by a level II ultrasound, the patient will be immediately notified and informed about the finding(s), after which additional genetic testing or follow-up evaluations are often recommended.
High-Resolution Ultrasound Technology
The high-frequency transducers associated with high-resolution ultrasounds provide highly detailed resolution which can help differentiate between a number of different diagnoses. For instance, this technology can help identify the precise level of a spinal defect and the exact location of the placental cord insertions with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.
The expertise of the sonogram team with this equipment and these techniques often leads to additional findings or even a new diagnosis.
What to Expect During a High-Resolution Ultrasound
You may be asked to drink a certain amount of water before the ultrasound to encourage fetal movement and get a clearer picture. A warm gel will be applied to your abdomen to facilitate the transmission of sound waves to your uterus. You will likely be asked to change positions to optimize the image of your baby’s anatomy. Sometimes it might be necessary to empty your bladder to conduct an internal scan of your cervix.
High-resolution ultrasounds offer the highest degree of clarity of the fetus to help ensure it is developing appropriately.