University of Utah Health Care’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Diagnostic Center provides comprehensive prenatal diagnostic services including 2D and 3D/4D ultrasound imaging, fetal MRI and invasive testing by amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. In addition, the center offers complete genetic counseling services to educate patients and their families about their prenatal testing options.

You should expect to have several ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy to track the growth and health of your baby. Your health care provider will advise you on which tests you'll need.

Ultrasound

What is an ultrasound?

An ultrasound procedure is a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) diagnostic procedure used to assess soft tissue structures such as muscles, blood vessels, and organs.

Ultrasound uses a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer picks up the reflected waves, which are then converted by a computer into an electronic picture of the organs or tissues under study.

Different types of body tissues affect the speed at which sound waves travel. Sound travels the fastest through bone tissue, and moves most slowly through air. The speed at which the sound waves are returned to the transducer, as well as how much of the sound wave returns, is translated by the transducer as different types of tissue.

A clear conducting gel is placed between the transducer and the skin to allow for smooth movement of the transducer over the skin and to eliminate air between the skin and the transducer for the best sound conduction.

By using an additional mode of ultrasound technology during an ultrasound procedure, blood flow can be assessed. An ultrasound transducer capable of assessing blood flow contains a Doppler probe. The Doppler probe within the transducer evaluates the velocity and direction of blood flow in the vessel and makes the sound waves audible. 

Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function (in "real time," like a live TV broadcast), and to assess blood flow through various vessels. Ultrasound procedures are often used to examine many parts of the body such as the abdomen, breasts, female pelvis, prostate, scrotum, thyroid and parathyroid glands, and the vascular system. During pregnancy, ultrasounds are performed to evaluate the development of the fetus.

Technological advancements in the field of ultrasound now include images that can be made in a three-dimensional view (3-D) and/or four dimensional (4-D) view. The added dimension of the 4-D is motion, so that it is a 3-D view with movement.

What are the different types of ultrasound procedures?

Different ultrasound techniques exist for different conditions. Examples of some of the more common types of ultrasound examinations include the following:

  • Doppler ultrasound. Used to see structures inside the body, while evaluating blood flow at the same time. Doppler ultrasound can determine if there are any problems within the veins and arteries.

  • Vascular ultrasound. Used to see the vascular system and its function, including detection of blood clots.

  • Echocardiogram. Used to see the heart and its valves, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the heart's pumping ability.

  • Abdominal ultrasound. Used to detect any abnormalities of the abdominal organs (i.e., kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder), such as gallstones or tumors.

  • Renal ultrasound. Used to examine the kidneys and urinary tract.

  • Obstetrical ultrasound. Used to monitor the development of the fetus.

  • Pelvic ultrasound. Used to find the cause of pelvic pain, such as an ectopic pregnancy in women, or to detect tumors or masses.

  • Breast ultrasound. Used to examine a mass in the breast tissue.

  • Thyroid ultrasound. Used to see the thyroid and to detect any abnormalities.

  • Scrotal ultrasound. Used to further investigate pain in the testicles.

  • Prostate ultrasound. Used to examine any nodules felt during a physical examination.

  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound. Used to examine any joint or muscle pain for conditions, such as a tear.

  • Intraoperative ultrasound. Used to help the surgeon during a minimally invasive operation or biopsy.

  • Interventional ultrasound. Used by an interventional radiologist to guide a minimally invasive procedure.

  • Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS). Used to provide direct visualization and measurement of the inside of blood vessels.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound. Used to obtain direct ultrasound examination of the inside of a body cavity or organ, using an ultrasound transducer inside an endoscope (a small, flexible tube with a light and a lens on the end).

How are ultrasounds performed?

An ultrasound procedure may be done on an outpatient basis, or as part of inpatient care. Although each facility may have specific protocols in place, generally, an ultrasound procedure follows this process:

  1. A gel-like substance will be smeared on the area of the body to undergo the ultrasound (the gel acts as a conductor).

  2. Using a transducer, a tool that sends ultrasound waves, the ultrasound will be sent through the patient's body.

  3. The sound from the transducer will be reflected off structures inside the body, and the information from the sound waves will be analyzed by a computer.

  4. The computer will create an image of these structures on a television screen. The moving pictures can be recorded.

  5. There are no confirmed adverse biological effects on patients or instrument operators caused by exposures to ultrasound.

Robert L. Andres, M.D.

Robert L. Andres, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. Dr. Andres serves as an attending physician at McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden, Utah, as well as the University of Utah Health Sciences Center . He completed his Maternal-Fetal Medicin... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Women's Health

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Zachary S. Bowman, M.D., Ph.D.

Zachary Bowman, MD is a Visiting Instructor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and a Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellow. He is from Lodi, California. He attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, where he received a B.A. in Biology-C... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

D. Ware Branch, M.D.

Dr. Branch is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist who treats high-risk pregnancy patients. He is internationally recognized for his research and focus on special interests within his specialty, including antiphosphilipid syndrome (APS), thrombotic disorders in pregnancy, and recurrent pregnancy loss. He has b... Read More

Specialties:

Genetics/Fetal Diagnosis, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Recurrent Miscarriage

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425
University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Janice L. B. Byrne, M.D.

Janice L.B. Byrne, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She has been with the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division since completing her fellowship at the University of Utah in 1994. Dr. Byrne is Director of the University of Utah/Intermountain He... Read More

Specialties:

Clinical Genetics, Genetics/Fetal Diagnosis, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Obstetrical Ultrasound, Women's Genetic Counseling

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Jeanette R. Carpenter, M.D.

Jeanette Chin, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine division of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She is a native of Salt Lake City, Utah. She attended Rice University in Houston where she earned a B.A. in biochemistry. She receiv... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

South Main Public Health Center (801) 468-3459
University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Erin A. S. Clark, M.D.

Erin Clark, MD has been an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center since she completed her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Utah in 2009. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as the subspecialty of Maternal-F... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Donna S. Dizon-Townson, M.D.

Donna S. Dizon-Townson, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and serves as the Medical Director of Clinical Programs for the Southern Region of Intermountain Healthcare. Dr. Dizon-Townson is a renowned authority on thrombophilic disorders in pregnancy, having published several pioneering pap... Read More

Specialties:

Genetics/Fetal Diagnosis, Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Michael L. Draper, M.D.

Michael L. Draper, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as the subspecialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. He has been with the University of Utah Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division since 2002. He is currently the Residency Program Dire... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-3375

Alexandra Grosvenor Eller, M.D., M.P.H.

Alexandra Grosvenor Eller, MD, MHP is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Eller completed her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Utah in 2008. Her areas of interest are ... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

M. Sean Esplin, M.D.

M. Sean Esplin, MD is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He joined the University of Utah Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division in 2000, after completion of his Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Utah. He is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and the subspecialty ... Read More

Specialties:

Genetics/Fetal Diagnosis, Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Cara C. Heuser, M.D.

Cara C. Heuser, MD is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She is an attending physician at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, UT, as well as the UUHSC. She completed her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Utah in 2011. Dr... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Calla M. Holmgren, M.D.

Calla M. Holmgren, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center where she completed her fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine in 2007. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her special interests include diabetes, disorders of coagulat... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

G. Marc Jackson, M.D., M.B.A.

Marc Jackson, MD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah. Dr. Jackson graduated from UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas in San Antonio, and completed his fellowship in Mat... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Heather D. Major, M.D.

Heather Major, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah, where she completed her fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine in 2010. Dr. Major's research interests include genetic factors which predispose to preterm birth, platelet and immune response in pr... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Tracy A. Manuck, M.D., B.A.

Tracy Manuck, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and board certified in the subspecialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. She completed her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship ... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Rita A. Paegle, D.N.P., M.S.N., C.N.M.

Rita Paegle, DNP, MSN, CNM, is a Certified Nurse Midwife at the University of Utah. She received her degree from the University of Utah. Her areas of clinical interest and expertise include international health care, policy, high risk obstetrics, health prevention and promotion, and OB triage. She is also fluen... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Midwifery Services

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

T. Flint Porter, M.D.

T. Flint Porter, MD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Assistant Director of the Fellowship Training Program in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. He joined the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division in 1997 after completing his fellowship at the Univ... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Douglas S. Richards, M.D.

Douglas Richards, MD is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. He is Associate Residency Program Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He completed a fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of North Carolina in 1987. He is boa... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Stephanie T. Romero, M.D.

Stephanie Romero, MD is a Visiting Instructor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. She is originally from Miami, Florida. She attended the University of Miami where she earned a B.S. in Biology and Secondary Education, and taught in a high school for tw... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Nancy C. Rose, M.D.

Nancy C. Rose, MD is board certified in Clinical Genetics, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. She completed a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. A Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she is also the Director of Reproductive Genet... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Obstetrical Ultrasound, Radiology

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Robert M. Silver, M.D.

Robert M. Silver, MD is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center who joined the University of Utah Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division after completing his fellowship there in 1994. He is serving as the Chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and as Co-Dire... Read More

Specialties:

Genetics/Fetal Diagnosis, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Recurrent Miscarriage

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Amy E. Sullivan, M.D.

Amy E. Sullivan, MD has been an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UUHSC since completing her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship there in 2003. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Her interests include multiple gestations and maternal cardiac d... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

Madsen Health Center (801) 581-8425
South Main Public Health Center (801) 581-8425
University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Trece B. Swanson, C.N.M., D.N.P., Ph.D.

Trece Swanson, DNP, CNM is a Certified Nurse Midwife at the University of Utah. She received both a Master of Science (MS) degree and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from the University of Utah. She is a board certified nurse-midwife, and a member of the Utah Chapter of the American College of Nur... Read More

Specialties:

Gynecology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Midwifery Services, Obstetrics

Locations:

South Jordan Health Center
University Hospital (801) 581-8425
University Neighborhood Partners - Hartland Clinic (801) 581-4014

Sandra E. Whitney, C.N.M.

Sandra Whitney, CNM is a Certified Nurse Midwife at the University of Utah. She received her degree from the University of Utah. Her areas of clinical interest and expertise include all aspects of women's healthcare, particularly high-risk pregnancies. ... Read More

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Midwifery Services, Nurse-midwifery

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-8425

Specialties:

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

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