An ultrasound is a technique used to create images and monitor information about a growing fetus inside a woman's womb. Traditional ultrasound provides a variety of information about a baby, including age, heart rate and potential birth defects. Advances in technology have allowed for the creation of four-dimensional, or 4-D, ultrasound so expecting parents can get a more detailed first look at their baby.
A 4-D ultrasound takes real-time images that create a video effect, so parents can see the baby's movements and facial expressions. While this procedure is not considered a standard prenatal test, it may be helpful in identifying certain birth defects, such as cleft lip or palate, which are not visible on a 2-D ultrasound.
The 4-D Ultrasound Procedure
The 4-D ultrasound procedure may be performed in a physician's office or diagnostic imaging center. It is usually performed after 25 weeks of pregnancy. During the procedure, the technician applies a special gel to the patient's belly, aiding the movement of ultrasound waves. A computer produces the 4-D video images, which can be viewed and taken home. The procedure lasts no more than 30 minutes.
Considerations and Risks of 4-D Ultrasound
The 4-D ultrasound is an elective procedure, and as such, may not be covered by insurance. It is not used to diagnose potential problems with the baby. There is a risk that the technician may not be able to produce a satisfactory image of the baby's face during the procedure, due to the baby's position or movement. Little is known to date about the effects of ultrasound on the health of the fetus. Some experts are worried about the potential health risks of exposure to the extra ultrasound waves used in 4-D imaging. Any concerns about the procedure should be discussed with the doctor.
Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure used to examine, under magnifcation, certain areas of the body and determine abnormalities. A vulvar colposcopy typically examines lesions on the vulva and is used to identify cancer or genital human papillomavirus, also called HPV.
The procedure is done with a colposcope, a microscope that can help identify malignant lesions on the vulva. It is usually performed as a follow-up to an abnormal pap smear. The exam itself is similar to a pap smear in that a speculum is inserted into the vagina so that the cervix is visible. The colposcope is situated so that the physician may view the area in question with a magnification of 10 to 40 times its normal size. If any abnormal cells are noticed, a biopsy of the tissue may be done.
A colposcopy is a safe procedure with few complications. Light bleeding or discharge for up to a week after the procedure is normal.
Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to scrape and collect endometrium, the tissue inside the uterus. Dilation is the widening of the cervix which allows instruments to pass into the uterus, while curettage is the scraping of the uterine walls.
A dilation and curettage procedure is performed for several reasons. They are as follows:
- Diagnose uterine cancer or other conditions
- Remove tissue after a miscarriage
- Treat heavy bleeding
- Investigate infertility
A dilation and curettage is performed under general or local anesthesia. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold it open. Medication to numb the opening to the uterus may be applied at this time. A curette is then inserted to gently scrape the tissue.