Forty years of obstetric ultrasound 1957-1997: from A-scope to three dimensions

Ultrasound Med Biol. 1999 Jan;25(1):3-56. doi: 10.1016/s0301-5629(98)00129-x.


In this article, we record the history of obstetric ultrasound as it developed worldwide in the second half of the twentieth century. The technological advances during this period saw the evolution of equipment from the original adapted metal flaw detectors producing a simple A-scan to the modern, purpose built, real-time colour flow machines with three-dimensional capability (Fig. 1). Clinically, ultrasound began as a research tool, but the poor quality of the images led to the ridicule of many of the early investigators. However, because of their perseverance, ultrasound developed into an imaging modality providing immense diagnostic capabilities and facilitating with precision many invasive procedures, diagnostic and therapeutic, both of which have made significant contributions to patient care. In this history, we recall the people, the personalities, and the problems they encountered during the development of ultrasound and how these problems were resolved, so that ultrasound now is available for use in the care of pregnant women throughout the developed world.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Diseases / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / history*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / instrumentation