Use of portable ultrasound equipment for at home pregnancy scanning

Society and BMUS issue position statement

Published: 18 August 2020 Obstetrics and Gynaecology

In response to a trend for people to carry out ultrasound scans at home, the SCoR and BMUS (British Medical Ultrasound Society) have issued a position statement highlighting that "ultrasound equipment should only be used by properly trained professionals."

The statement says, "As ultrasound equipment develops and becomes more portable, it is much easier for members of the public to access either their own handheld ultrasound machine or probe that connects to a mobile phone/tablet, or to hire a machine."

The document cites several sources including BMUS guidance, the World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, and two peer-reviewed papers from the British Medical Journal, all of which speak out strongly against the use of ultrasound by anyone other than trained professionals.

A letter has been sent from the presidents of the Society and BMUS to the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, highlighting the concerns of ultrasound being used by untrained people and for non-medical reasons. The letter includes links to German legislation in which ultrasound examinations without a medical indication are prohibited. Statutory regulation of sonographers would potentially mitigate the risks of home scanning and the SCoR continue to lobby hard in the pursuit of statutory regulation for sonographers.

The SCoR/BMUS statement says, "It is natural and understandable for expectant parents to want to see their unborn baby.  However, there are concerns that the use of ultrasound in inexperienced and untrained hands could provide false reassurance of fetal wellbeing or even cause harm if exposure is prolonged.

"Both the SCoR and BMUS recommend that ultrasound examinations are only performed by appropriate professionals, who can interpret the ultrasound images accurately and use the equipment safely, to reduce any potential harm to the baby or anxiety for parents."

SCoR and BMUS position statement: The use of portable ultrasound equipment for at home pregnancy scanning.