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Autumn Anderson

English IV
Mrs. Wilson
May 2, 2016
A Safe Medical Advance, the Ultrasound
Thesis: There is an unusual amount of publicity for ultrasounds causing autism in babies, but
this is a myth because research shows there has been no connection between ultrasounds and
autism.
I.
An ultrasound sends sound waves through the mothers womb, the uterus, which
then bounce off the babys body, sending the computer an image of the baby.
II.

How an ultrasound works/How an ultrasound is properly performed

III.

Benefits vs Risks

IV.

Lou Ann Armstrongs Interview

V.
VI.

Debunking Casanovas Hypothesis


Conclusion

A Safe Medical Advance, the Ultrasound

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Autism is becoming a topic it seems everyone talks about. There are numerous doctors
and celebrities who are discussing the harsh realization that some practices Americans think are
safe and are rather common may be causing autism in children. One of the hot topics of
discussion is the ultrasound performed on the mother during the prenatal period of the childs
life. Some seem to believe the sound waves bouncing off of the childs body creating the picture
on the sonogram machine is the reason for early autism in children. This is quite the myth
because research finds there is no connection between ultrasounds and autism. There is an
unusual amount of publicity for ultrasounds causing autism in babies, but this is a myth because
research shows there has been no connection between ultrasounds and autism.
There is a lot of confusion as to an ultrasound works. An ultrasound uses a sonogram
machine that sends sound waves too high pitched to be heard by the human ear, through the
mother to the child inside of the mothers uterus (The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of
Canada) . An ultrasound differs from an x-ray because an ultrasound does not use radiation,
which is harmful to an unborn child. The sound waves bounce off of the childs body creating
the image seen by the sonographer (The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada).
Ultrasounds can determine the size of the child, how well the childs heart works, how other
organs are growing such as the kidney, the spine, and the brain, and the anticipated date of birth
along with other important information in order for a healthy pregnancy. Studies continue to
ensure expecting mothers ultrasounds are safe for both the mother and the child. This practice
has been used for more than thirty years and is still being used to detect problems early and
ensure a healthy pregnancy (Radiological Society of America).
There is a plethora amount of benefits to ultrasounds, and those benefits do way more
than just outway the so called, risks. One of the best parts of ultrasounds is the fact that the

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procedure is not invasive. The doctors can obtain an image of the child inside of the mothers
womb without having to cut in surgery, risking the childs health, and especially the mothers
wellbeing. The ultrasound procedure in itself is not painful, unless there is an underlying
condition that involves complications with the patient. One other way the doctor can tell the
position of the child, if the mother is far along enough, the physician can physically invade the
mothers uterus and manipulate it. Most patients whom have been through the manipulation of
the uterus will agree that this is an excruciating and awkward examination. Unlike x-rays,
ultrasounds do not use ionizing radiation. X-rays are not the only scanning machines that use
harmful radiations. This also includes the Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also known as the MRI.
Even if a mother goes against medical advice and use an x-ray instead, the x-ray will not show
the soft tissue of the child as well as the ultrasound does. Ultrasounds give a pristine, clear image
of the soft tissue of the child. The most prominent benefit of them all is the ultrasound allows the
doctor a view inside of the uterus which provides much needed and helpful information about the
pregnancy. As for the risks, there are none. According to the RSNA, or Radiological Society of
North America, and many other organizations, there are no harmful effects on humans.
Lou Ann Armstrong, a high-risk sonographer at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in
Winston-Salem, concurs that ultrasounds are tremendously safe and help put both the mother and
physician's mind at ease. In an interview, she was asked if she could give a specific example of
where if an ultrasound would not be performed, the consequences would result in death. She
gave the following statement:
Recently, I was able to witness an amazing procedure which in turn saved a precious
little boy's life. The baby was noted to have a CPAM (Congenital Pulmonary Airway
Malformation). This is a mass in the babys lung which can be of various types from

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completely solid to having areas of cystic component. Due to this compression, the baby
began showing signs of cardiac failure. Using ultrasound guidance, a physician drained
the cystic portion of the mass and inserted a pigtail catheter from the mass to the amniotic
sac. If not for the drainage and shunt placement, this baby would not have survived past
the second trimester.
Lou Ann Armstrong has been giving patients ultrasounds for years, and says she has many more
stories to tell about how an ultrasound saves a life. In the interview, she goes on to tell about how
an ultrasound is not only to monitor the progression of the child, but also to aide in other
procedures that can be live-saving. This includes: an amniocentesis, intrauterine transfusion, and
chronic villus sampling. Armstrong takes her job as being extremely important in finding and
monitoring issues that affect both the mother and the child. She states that she would not
endanger the life of an unborn child or the mother, and if she felt using ultrasounds did this, she
would much rather be out of a job than putting others in harms way.
The Daily Beast discussed research that explored possible links to ultrasounds and
autism. They came up with a hypothesis known as Casanovas Hypothesis which states that
prolonged or inappropriate ultrasound exposure may actually trigger these cells to divide,
migrate, and form too many minicolumns (Margulis). In laymans terms, this study suggests that
the sound waves coming from the ultrasound cause the childs brain cells to split early. This is
known to be false because it merits an in-depth examination. Casanovas Hypothesis claims
prolonged exposure will cause autism in children, but what the ideology leaves out is the fact
that women who do have more ultrasounds than others already have a preliminary issue with
their pregnancy. This can include bleeding, diabetes, and small-for-gestational-age fetuses, along
with other conditions (Abramowicz). With that being said, one must take into consideration these

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problems can also aid in the perfect storm for autism. This is why Casanovas Hypothesis cannot
be taken as anything but a hypothesis. There is a surplus amount of sources that share the blame
for causing autism. It would be totally unfair to ignorantly blame one aspect of the spectrum.
There is a superabundance of evidence to show that ultrasounds are particularly safe in
the prenatal term of pregnancy, despite the rumors saying ultrasounds may cause autism and
other birth defects. Benefits of ultrasounds have an outweighing effect of risks. As a matter of
fact, there are no certain risks as of the past few decades, ever since ultrasounds became a highly
used procedure in pregnancy gestation. Any person can go on the internet to find multiple
reliable sources that agree ultrasounds cause no harm, but if that is not sufficient enough to
convince someone, they can go and ask any OB/GYN that is willing to talk, and they will state
the same reasoning as in this essay. For example, Lou Ann Armstrong, who has been performing
ultrasounds for years, stands by her statement that ultrasounds are a live-saving piece of
equipment that cause no harm. Unquestionably ultrasounds cause no harm to patients. This is a
fact that has been proven over and over again throughout decades.

Works Cited
Abramowicz, Jacques S., MD. "Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine."Ultrasound and Autism.
American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016.
<http://www.jultrasoundmed.org/content/31/8/1261.full>.
Margulis, Jennifer. "Are Ultrasounds Causing Autism in Unborn Babies." The Daily Beast.
Newsweek/Daily Beast, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
<http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/04/29/are-ultrasounds-causing-autism
-in-unborn-babies.html>.

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Radiological Society of America. "Obstetric Ultrasound." Obstetric Ultrasound. Radiological


Society of America, Inc., 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
<http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=obstetricus#benefits-risks>.
The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada. "Ultrasound in Pregnancy." Ultrasound in
Pregnancy. The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada, 2016. Web. 22 Mar.
2016. <http://sogc.org/publications/ultrasound-in-pregnancy/>.