What Is 4D Ultrasonography?

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  • Written By: Jackie Myers
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Images By: Giovanni Cancemi, Tess Watson
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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4D ultrasonography uses three-dimensional ultrasound images and adds live-action images to the process. It can be used to analyze the development of an unborn child. 4D ultrasound provides a moving 3D movie of the fetus by rapidly processing image stills and can strengthen the bond between parents and the unborn baby. This ultrasound technology also allows experts to detect various abnormalities, including Down syndrome, in fetuses.

Advances in computer technology are responsible for the higher quality images in 4D ultrasonography. Images are generated by sending high-frequency sound waves inside the mother's body. The waves penetrate all fluids and bounce away from solids. The rebounding waves produce images that are processed quickly, making the images appear to occur in real time.

A woman can view the development of her unborn child with 4D ultrasonography beginning in week 20 of pregnancy. The high-resolution images alert doctors of health issues with the fetus. Unlike two-dimensional sonography, 4D ultrasound provides experts with a more accurate picture of the fetus' surroundings. It can detect small tears in the uterus and allows parents to have a detailed view of their unborn child's eyes and fingers.


Studies have shown using three-dimensional and 4D ultrasonography has a positive impact on expectant mothers during pregnancy. Viewing an unborn baby in motion improves maternal health habits. Mothers have the tendency to eliminate harmful behaviors such as drinking and smoking. It can also encourage them to exercise more and improve their diet. A 4D ultrasound can also increase paternal involvement.

4D ultrasonography is useful in finding abnormalities in the unborn baby. The real-time imaging is capable of focusing on a specific area instead of the whole body.To accomplish this, an ultrasound technician, holds a probe over the mother's abdomen. A nearby computer captures the images as multiple pictures and simultaneously renders live three-dimensional images on a monitor. Deformities such as cleft lip and various spinal cord abnormalities can also be viewed with 4D ultrasound.

Physicians can use 4D ultrasonography to detect Down syndrome in fetuses, as 4D ultrasonography provides a better picture for diagnosis than two-dimensional imaging. 4D ultrasound allows experts to analyze multiple views of blood vessels and the heart in real-time. Images of the heart as well as the nasal bone can indicate whether the unborn baby has Down syndrome.


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