Are First Trimester Ultrasounds Really Linked To Severity Of Autism?

First Posted: Sep 05, 2016 06:21 AM EDT

Diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy seems to be linked to more symptoms of autism, and is said to be linked to increased severity of the disorder.

A study by researchers at UW Medicine, UW Bothell, and Seattle Children's Research Institute suggested that exposure to diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester is linked to increased severity of autism symptoms, the greatest link being among kids with certain genetic variations associated with such disorder. This is in line with the current FDA guidelines that recommend diagnostic ultrasound to be used for medical necessity only.

Pierre Mourad, a UW professor of neurological surgery in Seattle said, "I believe the implications of our results are to bolster the FDA guidelines." He also specifically mentioned that the data they collected are about the first trimester of the pregnancyonly - the effect of ultrasound on the second and third trimesters showed no link so far.

Sara Webb, a UW Medicine researcher in psychiatry and behavioral sciences also said to that there had been a struggle as to answer why so many children have had autism. Among the question that the study aimed to answer why so many children develop autism and why they are so different from each other. Webb also clarified that there is no evidence to suggest that ultrasound is a risk in itself, but it does suggest that there are pregnancies where fetuses are more vulnerable.

This is not the first time that the team looked into the effects of ultrasound to fetuses. Eureka Alert noted that in 2014, Mourad and Webb, together with Abbi McClintic, a UW Medicine researcher in neurological surgery, and Brian King, now a psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco, reported that ultrasound exposure in-utero can cause mice to exhibit autistic-like symptoms, which lead them to study their findings further.

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