LOS ANGELES (January 3, 2000) – With the advent of three-dimensional ultrasound, clinicians are gaining unparalleled insight into the human body -- viewing internal structures and functions with amazing clarity. At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, this new technology is enabling physicians to observe fetal development and diagnose abnormalities with advanced accuracy.
Under the direction of Lawrence Platt, M.D., chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and president of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), Cedars-Sinai’s prenatal program offers the latest in both standard and 3-D ultrasound equipment. In fact, Dr. Platt and his associates work with manufacturers to research and develop new generations of equipment.
"Developing this technology was no small task," said Dr. Platt, adding that the latest 3-D ultrasound system has been in place at Cedars-Sinai for more than three years. "The sophistication of this imaging equipment has come along dramatically in recent years."
With three-dimensional ultrasound, a more natural and "complete" image is achieved through multiplanar renderings that are more readily interpreted by the human eye. Scanning across the structure of interest, the imaging system utilizes "volume rendering," which produces an image based on the original image data rather than a mathematical model. Volume rendering allows both surface and transparent display, and the image produced is true to the original with a high degree of textural detail.
"We have the highest resolution systems available, and they have allowed us to make the earliest possible diagnoses," stated Dr. Platt, who is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and in maternal-fetal medicine.
The advanced 3-D capabilities can assist in detecting such conditions as cleft lip and palate, brain malformations, ear and skull problems and, potentially, disorders of the heart. In studies, three-dimensional images have not only been used to confirm suspected diagnoses, but in some instances to change a diagnosis because physicians were better able to visualize the fetus.
In the U.S., most pregnant women -- an estimated 80 percent -- have ultrasound studies performed during the course of their pregnancies. There is increasing interest and demand for the procedure, according to Dr. Platt, as word of 3-D’s true-to-life images reaches the community at large. This presents a dilemma for practitioners like Dr. Platt, who caution that ultrasound, should only be performed when clinically relevant.
"This is wonderful technology, but we must be prudent in its use," he pointed out. "The AIUM recommends three-dimensional ultrasound for diagnostic purposes only, not simply for pictures of the baby. We consider the 3-D imaging that is going on in some of our shopping centers -- and provided by offices simply selling portraits of fetuses -- to be below the standard practice of medicine."
While risks are considered low, Dr. Platt warns that safety cannot be guaranteed.
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