3D/4D Ultrasound Scans
The latest developments in ultrasound imaging are the three-dimensional scanning and the 3D in real time. They are known as 3D/4D scans, and have come to revolutionize the obstetrical practice.
With this technology we can enjoy the incredible experience of seeing the features of babies and observing their movements before they are born.
We can now follow the development of babies inside the womb, study their physical characteristics, and discover how their movements get more sophisticated as the pregnancy progresses.
What is a 3D/4D Ultrasound Scan?
3D/4D imaging is the latest advance in ultrasound technology.
If the 3D has added volume to the traditional 2D ultrasound, the 4D imaging gives us a fourth dimension: time.
The 4D technology is capable of processing instantaneously the volumes generated by the 3D probes, and presenting them as fluid movements in real time.
A 3D image is constructed from information obtained by special ultrasound probes, and allows us to visualize the face and body of a baby with very definite shapes and precise volumes.
The quality of these images invariably delight the parents of the baby, but they also display physical traits of the fetus that ordinary 2 dimensional ultrasounds do not show or show only partially.
The facial expressions such as smiles, winks, blinks or yawning, and the body movements, are captured by this innovative technology capable of showing trails of the activity of a baby inside the womb.
What are the advantages of the 3D/4D scanning?
In the vast majority of cases the day of her 3D/4D ultrasound scan is, for the expectant mother, one of the most exciting and rewarding of the pregnancy.
But the benefits of 3D/4D obstetric diagnosis go far beyond.
The multiple and temporal sequences of this ultrasound can render life-like visualisation of different parts of the fetal anatomy moving in real time.
They offer insights, for example, in the morphology and function of areas as sensitive as the cranial structure or the circulatory system. The 3D images are also useful for the detection of foetal abnormality, especially in face, extremities, chest, spine and central nervous system.
4D scanning, on the other hand, allows to monitor the development of the fetal movements, whose alterations can indicate the existence of pathologies of the neurological system.
The facility for monitoring foetal movements in real time is also very useful in the implementation of uterine punctures, shortening the duration of the procedure even in the most complicated cases.
The application of 3D imaging in the diagnosis of gynaecological problems is equally significant.
Numerous pathologies of the uterine cavity, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries can now be studied in detail from the three-dimensional reconstructions of the female reproductive tract that this technology allows.
Its use in combination with Doppler ultrasound also improves the early diagnosis of tumours in cases of ovarian or endometrial cancer.
Equally outstanding is its application to the detection and assessment of ectopic pregnancies, ovarian cysts, endometrial polyps or uterine myomas.
By offering a volumetric image of the uterus, the 3D ultrasound has also revolutionize the diagnosis of uterine malformations, such as the uterus bicornate, uterus septum or uterus arcuatus.
A 3D scan is now sufficient to detect these problems that before were only visible by subjecting the patient to invasive techniques such as hysteroscopies, laparoscopies or hysterosalpingographies.
What is the best time to view my baby with a 3D/4D scan?
The 3D/4D ultrasound scan can be performed at any time of pregnancy to complement the information obtained with a 2D ultrasound in the first, second or third trimester of the pregnancy.
The recommended use of the three-dimensional and 4D imaging is, in fact, in combination with the 2D high definition and Doppler diagnostic ultrasounds.
If you wish to have only one 3D/4D scan, the best time is between week 24 and week 32 of the pregnancy.
As the pregnancy progresses the baby gains weight and the layers of muscle and fatty tissue increase in size and thickness.
The appearance of babies is more proportionate each day and they continuously add new skills to their register of gestures and facial expressions.
Also in these weeks we find enough amniotic fluid for the ultrasound wave to travel fluently.
Normally the outcome of these scans are images of the highest quality and definition that show the face and body of the babies with unimaginable fidelity.
In the last few weeks of a gestation images of amazing resemblance with the baby at birth can be obtained. But it is also true that we have increased chances that the fetal position, the placenta or the umbilical cord obstruct the desired visibility.
From week 32 onwards is also more frequent that babies cover their face with their hands or feet or that they turn round and show their backs.
Mother's overweight or obesity can influence the quality of the images obtained at any stage of the pregnancy.
In the case of multiple pregnancies, twins or triplets, 3D/4D ultrasounds must be done a bit earlier, at around the 22nd week of pregnancy.
3D/4D Scans at Dr Berral's Clinic in Marbella, Malaga.
When you request a 3D/4D ultrasound at our Clinic, we always carry out a study of the fetal anatomy and growth similar to that of the 20th week check-up.
As we scan the pregnancy, we report on the various aspects of the study and the most relevant findings of the scan.
The explanations on the state of the baby and the evolution of pregnancy are clear and understandable, and parents normally find them very reassuring.
The examination lasts between 30 and 40 minutes and the images are recorded on a DVD that we provided at the Clinic.
We also print out some photos, that we hand over together with your medical report.
Pioneers in the use of the 4D ultrasound in the Costa del Sol, the equipment at our Clinic allows us to perform obstetrical 2D high-definition, colour Doppler and 3D/4D scanning during one visit and at any stage of your pregnancy.
For us seeing the face of the baby is not just a parental requirement, but a medical goal in which we put all our efforts and resources.
The 3D/4D study of the fetal face is a useful diagnosis tool for the early detection of certain congenital malformations.
The sex of the baby begins to be visible at around the week 12 of a gestation, but it is normally at around week 16 that it can be reported with greater certainty.
At 20 weeks we can normally tell all Mums and Dads that wish to know it whether their baby is a boy or a girl.
From week 26 onwards the genitals of the baby are shown very clearly in the 3D/4D scan.
If you do not wish to know the sex of baby, or do not want that it is revealed in the presence of your companions, you must tell us before starting the ultrasound.
No special preparation is required on the day of the ultrasound.
Fortunately it is not necessary to have a full bladder to achieve good contrast and high quality images.
If you are going have an obstetric ultrasound we might recommend, however, that you take something sweet shortly before coming to your appointment, it can help the baby be active and "work" with us during the scan.
It is also advisable that you do not put moisturizing or anti-stretch marks cream in the abdominal area on the day of exploration or up to three days in advance if possible.
The cream forms an oily film around your tummy that may hinder the passage of ultrasound waves.
During the ultrasound scan patients and their companions can see the images on a screen located above the examination chair.
Sometimes patients request to be accompanied by someone else beside their partners.
We do not have any objection.