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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Sep;48(3):285-8. doi: 10.1002/uog.15962. Epub 2016 Jul 25.

Prenatal ultrasound and childhood autism: long-term follow-up after a randomized controlled trial of first- vs second-trimester ultrasound.

Author information

Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Pediatrics, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery and Centre for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet and Department of Clinical Genetics, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.
Center for Fetal Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital and Division of Clintec, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



To analyze whether the frequency of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a cohort of Swedish children differs between those exposed to ultrasound in the 12(th) week and those exposed to ultrasound in the 18(th) week of gestation.


The study cohort consisted of approximately 30 000 children born between 1999 and 2003 to mothers who had been randomized to a prenatal ultrasound examination at either 12 or 18 weeks' gestation as part of the framework for a study on nuchal translucency screening. The outcome measure in the present study was the rate of ASD diagnoses among the children. Information on ASD diagnoses was based on data from the Swedish social insurance agency concerning childcare allowance granted for ASD.


Between 1999 and 2003, a total of 14 726 children were born to women who underwent a 12-week ultrasound examination and 14 596 to women who underwent an 18-week ultrasound examination. Of these, 181 (1.2%) and 176 (1.2%) children, respectively, had been diagnosed with ASD. There was no difference in ASD frequency between the early and late ultrasound groups.


Women subjected to at least one prenatal ultrasound examination at either 12 or 18 weeks' gestation had children with similar rates of ASD. However, this result reflects routine care 10-15 years ago in Sweden. Today, higher intensity ultrasound scans are performed more frequently, at earlier stages during pregnancy and for non-medical purposes, implying longer exposure time for the fetus. This change in the use of ultrasound necessitates further follow-up study of the possible effects that high exposure to ultrasound during the gestational period has on the developing brain. Copyright © 2016 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


autism; children; early vs late; outcome; prenatal ultrasound

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