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No Strong Links Found Between Ultrasound During Pregnancy And Autism: Study

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Ultrasound examinations are common during pregnancy and researchers recently analyzed whether an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is more probable among kids exposed to the procedure while in the womb.

The new study results indicate that there is no link found between the duration or number of prenatal ultrasounds and autism diagnosis in the child later on. However, a research team has found a statistical link between autism and deep wave penetration ultrasound during pregnancy's first and second trimesters.

"Depth of penetration has to do with the distance between the ultrasound transducer (probe) on the skin and the point at what you're looking at on the ultrasound," said study coauthor Dr. Jodi Abbott, who is a Boston Medical Center physicist.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics on Feb. 12.

Depth Of Penetration

The depth of penetration is the farthest down reached by the ultrasound wave. It has no link with where the fetus or the parts are. For instance, the depth could show 20 centimeters whereas the fetus could be located at 12 centimeters.

The frequency increases the wave absorption moving through the tissue, so if the frequency is higher, the ultrasound will penetrate at a shallower level as per the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. The technician handling the ultrasound gets a leeway to adjust the frequency to get a clearer fetus photo.

The penetration depth also varies depending on the woman's size and the number of tissues she has on her abdomen between the fetus and the transducer, and it is not something she can control.

According to Dr. N. Paul Rosman, a Boston Medical Center pediatric neurologist and lead author of the study, the research results show that ultrasounds do not cause autism. However, there are still deficiencies in the study and additional research is needed to know more about the matter.

“This small study reports reassuring findings that children with autism spectrum disorder were less exposed to prenatal ultrasound and that the ultrasound energy used during the examination was no different compared to children without autism spectrum disorder,” stated Dr. Basky Thilaganathan, Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists spokesperson, who was not associated with the research.

Ultrasound And Autism

Ultrasound can heat tissues, which is damaging and the procedure can also vibrate tissues. There have been concerns about whether a developing fetus is adversely impacted by ultrasound, especially in the brain area, which is delicate during the early stages of development.

“We think there are probably fetuses vulnerable to autism due to genetic errors and environmental factors,” said Sara Jane Webb, who wrote the accompanying editorial to the study. “But this study does not provide any additional support for ultrasound being a single cause.”

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