New Recommendations to Reduce the Risk of Accidental Harm to Potentially Normal Pregnancies

A panel of 15 medical experts convened by the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound (SRU) has recommended new steps for doctors when considering whether a pregnancy can potentially result in a liveborn baby using ultrasonography. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine by top professionals in the field, including EPT Trustee Professor Tom Bourne, would help avoid the possibility of doctors inadvertently causing harm to a potentially normal pregnancy.

Typically, ultrasonography, more commonly referred to as ‘scanning’, is one of the methods used in the diagnosis and management of early pregnancy complications like ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. Techniques used in determining whether a pregnancy can potentially result in a liveborn baby include looking at the size of the embryo and size of gestational sac.

The specialists undertaking the study, from the fields of radiology, obstetrics-gynecology and emergency medicine, have reviewed the criteria that is currently used to determine whether a pregnancy is viable and have based their findings on latest medical research.

Their recommendations include:

  •  Increasing the size of an embryo without a heartbeat from five millimetres to seven millimetres before it is considered a pregnancy which cannot possibly result in a live-born baby (“nonviable”).
  •  Increasing the size of a gestational sac without an embryo from 16 to 25 millimetres before it is considered nonviable.
  • Not taking any action that could damage a healthy pregnancy based on a single blood test if the ultrasound findings are inconclusive and the woman is in a stable condition.

Peter M. Doubilet, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston commented: “When a doctor tells a woman that her pregnancy has no chance of proceeding, he or she should be absolutely certain of being correct. Our recommendations are based on the latest medical knowledge with input from a variety of medical specialities. We urge providers to familiarize themselves with these recommendations and factor them into their clinical decision making”.