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University Hospital of Brooklyn at

Long Island College Hospital

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Dawnette Lewis

The Downstate Diagnosis Archive

The Downstate Diagnosis:
Ultrasound – A Wealth of Information From a Simple Diagnostic Test

Ultrasound – What is it really? Ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique used by doctors use to view many parts of the body. The OB/GYN Ultrasound Unit at Downstate LICH sees both pregnant and non-pregnant women. However, its most common use in women is to evaluate a fetus during prenatal care. Unlike X-rays, ultrasounds do not use radiation. Here are answers to the most common questions I've been asked:

What we look for during the first trimester of pregnancy:

  • Dating – determining how long has the patient been pregnant and to give an estimated delivery date
  • Viability – if the fetus has a heartbeat, particularly in cases of vaginal bleeding
  • Number of fetuses – twins, triplets and so on
  • Detection of ectopic pregnancies (out of the womb)
  • Screening for certain types of abnormalities

What we look for during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy:

  • To evaluate the fetus for any abnormalities
  • The amount of amniotic fluid present
  • Fetal growth
  • Fetal behavior; such as how the fetus moves

What we can't readily see in an ultrasound on a pregnant woman:

  • Some chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down's Syndrome, because they do not look different in the womb from other fetuses
  • Some defects in the soft palate of the mouth

The uses of ultrasound for non-pregnant women

  • Pelvic masses such as fibroids or ovarian cysts
  • Evaluation of endometrial lining, particularly in post-menopausal patients
  • Women who have excessive vaginal bleeding

The best ultrasound centers, like the one at Downstate LICH, are those who have received professional accreditation from the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, www.aium.org.

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