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Ir Med J. 2013 Nov-Dec;106(10):311-3.

Routine obstetric ultrasound services.

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Fetal Medicine Unit, National Maternity Hospital, Holles St, Dublin 2.


Antenatal ultrasonography is widely used in pregnancy to assess fetal growth, wellbeing and anatomy. Although ultrasound screening is now an integral part of routine antenatal care, recommendations for the delivery of obstetric ultrasound vary from country to country. A recent survey of English maternity units reported that 100% of women are offered routine mid-trimester fetal anomaly scanning, in line with expert recommendations. Currently in Ireland, no national guidance exists to inform practitioners on the minimum standards for obstetric ultrasound practice. In 2012, we conducted a structured telephone survey of all 20 maternity units in Ireland (n = 74,377 births). Routine mid-trimester anomaly scanning was offered universally to all women in 7/20 (35%) units, offered selectively to some women in 9/20 (45%) units and not offered to any women in 4/20 (20%) of units. The time allotted for a complete fetal anatomical survey was 10-15 minutes in 4/16 (25%) units, 20 minutes in 7/16 (44%) units and 25-30 minutes in 5/16 (31%) units. Written guidelines on the appropriate management of "soft markers" for fetal aneuploidy were routinely used in 11/16 (69%) of units. In no Irish unit currently, are images from fetal anomaly scanning routinely reviewed by an Obstetrician with an interest in fetal medicine. 19/20 (95%) of respondents believed that a minimum of 2 scans should be offered in routine uncomplicated pregnancies. Improvements in the availability of obstetric ultrasound to pregnant women in Ireland will require increased staffing numbers at both the ultrasonographer and fetal specialist levels. There is a clear need for national guidelines on the provision of routine obstetric ultrasound in Ireland.

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