Ultrasound Screening For Fetal Anomalies: Is It Worth It? A New York Academy Of Sciences Conference

June 23, 1997

Is Ultrasound Screening for Birth Defects a Worthwhile, Cost-Effective Procedure?

Leading Obstetrics Experts from Europe, Canada, and the United States Discuss the Controversy in New York June 23-25

Results of New Eurofetus Study To Be Introduced During New York Academy of Sciences Conference at The Rockefeller University

NEW YORK, JUNE 11, 1997 -- With the introduction of ultrasound screening in the 1970s, the uterus of a pregnant woman ceased to be "a closed space that effectively hid most of its secrets."* Today, ultrasound screenings during pregnancy often provide detailed information regarding a developing fetus. Just how effective is ultrasound screening in detecting anomalies -- birth defects and abnormal growth patterns -- in utero? Should pregnant women undergo routine ultrasound screening? The search for the answers to these questions has become a subject of controversy among leading world medical and health care professionals. The medical, economic, and ethical issues will be debated June 23-25 at "Ultrasound Screening for Fetal Anomalies: Is It Worth It?" -- a New York Academy of Sciences conference to be held at The Rockefeller University.

Ultrasound screening uses sound waves to produce an image of a fetus, which often helps clinicians in detecting fetal anomalies in utero, such as malformations and congenital heart abnormalities. Early detection of birth defects can assist pregnant women in reproductive decisions, including planning for specialized delivery procedures and any necessary surgery. Without access to the data ultrasound screening can provide, many professionals believe that the autonomy of pregnant women is compromised. Widely accepted as a standard procedure throughout most of Europe, the validity of ultrasound screening is questioned by many U.S. medical and managed care professionals.

In 1993, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the results of the Routine Antenatal Diagnostic Imaging with Ultrasound (RADIUS) Study, conducted to test the effectiveness of ultrasound screening as a means for prenatal detection of fetal anomalies. The data from the multi-center RADIUS study led researchers to conclude that the results did not support routine ultrasonography for birth defect detection. However, data from several European studies conducted since appear to contradict the RADIUS study results, showing markedly high detection rates of between 45 - 73 percent.

The apparent discrepancy has inspired this first-ever international meeting to gather leading obstetrics professionals from Europe and the U.S. to specifically address the validity of ultrasound screening. The conference will introduce in the United States the results of an important new European study -- the Eurofetus study. In addition, the conference offers a forum for discussion in the search for a national and international consensus regarding the benefits of ultrasound screening for fetal anomalies.

Conference co-chairs are Frank A. Chervenak, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Cornell University Medical College, and director of the departments of obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine, The New York Hospital, and Salvator Levi, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, and head of the ultrasound department, Centre Universitaire Brugmann. The conference gathers 31 experts participating in seven sessions. The speakers are from Belgium, Canada, Croatia, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the U.S.

The conference will be held at The Rockefeller University Caspary Auditorium, 1230 York Avenue (at 66th St.) The sessions will cover such topics as: the relevance of fetal anomalies in clinical practice, the impact of ultrasound screening data on infant outcome (including data regarding new state-of-the-art surgical procedures for addressing fetal defects), the methods and consequences of fetal anomaly screening, ultrasound screening research data from studies in developing countries, and the training of ultrasound screening professionals. The conference includes the presentation of 35 papers, two panel discussions, and poster sessions. The conference is made possible in part due to grants from Eurofetus, The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Acuson Corp., and Aloka.

For interview arrangements, or to schedule press attendance at the conference, please call 212.838.0230, ext. 231. Advance media registration is preferred. Conference abstracts and papers will be made available by request.

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. For additional information, please visit the New York Academy of Sciences Web site: http://www.nyas.org###

New York Academy of Sciences

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