Ultrasound is, arguably, the most commonly used diagnostic procedure in obstetrics. It is convenient, painless, yields immediate, extensive results, and is widely considered to be safe. Some (but not all) benefits described in the literature have been validated by evidence-based analysis, such as pregnancy dating. Others are considered clinically useful, although objective evidence may be less strong. As is the case with almost any medical procedure, however, its performance carries some risks: misdiagnosis on the one hand and possible undesired effects on the other. The general belief exists that diagnostic ultrasound (DUS) does not pose any risk to the pregnant patient nor to her fetus. Nonetheless, ultrasound is a form of energy and, as such, demonstrates effects in biological tissues it traverses (bioeffects). The physical mechanisms responsible for these effects are thermal or non-thermal (mechanical). It is the role of science to show whether any of these bioeffects may be harmful. A risk-benefit analysis may also be important, as well as education of the end users to assure patients' safety.
Keywords: Bioeffects; Fetus; Mechanical effects; Pregnancy; Risks; Thermal effects; Ultrasound.
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