Prenatal Ultrasound Tied to Autism Severity in At-Risk Kids
Written by Editor   
Saturday, October 08, 2016 12:00 AM

Early prenatal diagnostic ultrasound has been linked to variability in symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children with specific genetic vulnerabilities.  These results “add weight to ongoing concerns" expressed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the nonmedical use of diagnostic ultrasound during pregnancy.

There is some experimental evidence, though no human data, that exposure to ultrasound early in gestation could alter brain development and behavior, the investigators report.  In a retrospective study of a national sample of children with ASD, the researchers looked for a possible relationship between the severity of ASD symptoms and ultrasound exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy in offspring with a genetic predisposition to ASD.  They say their findings support “FDA guidelines that seek to limit diagnostic ultrasound for obstetrical care to those cases with medical need."

Said one commentator “past studies have shown no differences in the rate of autism spectrum disorders in groups of women receiving early ultrasounds during pregnancy. These authors propose that small populations of genetically at-risk children may still have neurologic effects after exposure to ultrasound. If true, it would imply that genetic screening of pregnant women could guide practitioners when deciding about the timing of early ultrasounds."

In response to the study, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine Bioeffects Committee issued a statement noting that "the results of the study do not demonstrate a causal link between ultrasound and autism. Ultrasound examinations can be safely performed by educated and credentialed sonographers and clinicians when medically indicated and when the ALARA (as low as reasonable achievable) principle is followed."