Diagnostic ultrasound linked to increased autism severity

Ultrasound exposure in the first trimester is linked with increased severity of autism, a study reveals.

Using data from the Simons Simplex Collection autism genetic repository, the study looked at 2,644 families in 12 regions of the USA.

They found that exposure to diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy is linked with increased autism symptom severity.

The most significant correlation is among children with certain genetic variations associated with autism, in which seven per cent had been subject to an ultrasound scan.

Lead researcher, Sara Webb, said the team had approached the study using a three-part model, which explains variability in kids with autism.

The first is a genetic vulnerability to the disorder, and the second is an outside stressor. The third is a timeframe in which the stressor has to impact a child.

Ultrasound, Ms Webb says, is one of the stressors they looked into.

Following the study, the American regulatory drug board has issued guidelines warning that diagnostic ultrasound should only be used for medical necessity – an action likely to be mirrored in the UK.

“If we can figure out this information in any other way, I would go with that,” Ms Webb said.

“It’s always worth considering that when we do medical procedures, there are great benefits but also risk.”

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