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Ultrasound Scans May Harm Unborn Babies

By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent

New research has raised doubts over the safety of ultrasound scans used to view fetuses in the womb. Scientists have called for further research to determine whether safety limits should be reviewed for the tests, which are also used to check internal organs in children and adults. Since the early 1990s, when American researchers showed that ultrasound tissue heating can cause bleeding in mouse intestines, ultrasonographers tune the power of scans to reduce heating. The latest discovery, by scientists at University College Dublin, is the first to find that scans create changes in cells. Patrick Brennan, who led the research, said: "It has been assumed for a long time that ultrasound has no effect on cells. We now have grounds to question that assumption."

The researchers gave 12 mice an eight megahertz scan lasting for 15 minutes. Hospital scans can last for up to an hour, using frequencies of between three and 10 megahertz. According to today's New Scientist, two significant changes in the cells of the small intestine were detected in scanned mice compared with unscanned mice. Four and a half hours after exposure, the rate of cell division had reduced by 22 per cent and the rate of programmed cell death had approximately doubled. Mr. Brennan believes there will be similar effects in humans.

COMMENT: It would certainly seem prudent to avoid all routine absolutely unnecessary ultrasound scans for fetal observation. There appears to be more than enough evidence to warrant this recommendation. Pregnancy complications are another issue and one would have to weigh all the factors individually when attempting to determine the benefit/risk ratio.

New Scientist ISSUE 1476 Thursday 10 June 1999

Comment from GLORIA LEMAY, Vancouver, BC.  :  The above item and comment came from Healthy News You Can Use, a weekly on line health newsletter by Dr. Mercola, and the comments are Dr. Mercola's.

I believe the statement above that this is the first study showing cell changes from ultra sound is incorrect.  Dr. D. Liebeskind of Albert Einstein University published findings of cell changes as a result of ultrasound in l982 in the British Journal of Cancer.  Her study was duplicated by 4 other reputable labs but ll others could not duplicate the results.  Therefore, her work was essentially thrown out. The heating effect of ultrasound has also been proven before.  Good scientists have tried to alert the public about the danger to a baby's brain of having ultrasound scans. Because the head is bowl shaped, the radiation is magnified and can result in parts of the brain being subjected to extra high intensities.  (ref. "A Prudent Approach to Ultrasound Imaging of the Fetus and Newborn. Kenneth J.W. Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., Birth 17:4 Dec l990)

Dr. Taylor, who is Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Chief of the Ultrasound Section at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, makes the statement in this article "I would not let anybody get near my infant's head with a transducer unless I knew what the output was."  How many parents could make an informed choice about this matter?

Another article with information about brain heating by ultrasound is Tissue Heating Effect of Pulsed Doppler Ultrasound in the Live Fetal Lamb Brain. Fetal Diagnostic Therapy l992;7:26-30.

Gloria Lemay, Private Birth Attendant, Vancouver BC Canada  (T/fax) 604 737 7063


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