Anatomical Survey Scans

Posted on October 28, 2011

The anatomical survey scan, known to most people as the detailed anatomy scan, is one of the most well known and well used types of pregnancy scan. This anatomy scan is used to not only confirm the foetus is alive but to also check that it is healthy. Many health defects can be identified using the anatomical survey scan which allows for both doctors and parents to be to prepare for the birth of the child.

The anatomical survey scan takes place between 18 and 22 weeks in the middle of the second trimester as this is the best time to get accurate views of both the uterus and the foetus. It is conducted using standard ultrasound technology where ultrasound waves move through flesh and tissue and reflect back off of solid, dense surfaces to create an accurate image of what is inside the womb. Several things are identified and measured during the anatomical survey scan. After the foetus is confirmed to be alive by testing for a heartbeat, each part of the body is examined. The technician will check the development of the head and the brain and major organs like the bowels, heart and lungs. The technician will also be able to check the limbs of the foetus. The fluid around the baby will also be checked as well as the position of the placenta to try and predict any complications that may occur at the birth.

The anatomical survey scan can often identify serious physical defects while the baby is in the womb. For example, Spina Bifida, a condition caused by the backbone and spinal canal not closing before birth, can be spotted in 90% of cases. Anencephaly, where a large part of the brain or skull is missing, can also be spotted during the detailed anatomy scan. Other defects like major heart problems or down’s syndrome are more difficult to spot and other tests may be conducted to identify them, such as the nuchal translucency scan for down’s syndrome. However, the anatomical survey scan cannot detect problems such as cerebral palsy and autism.

An anatomical survey is very important to ensure that the foetus is developing properly and healthily and to try and minimise the risk of unexpected problems during and after birth. The scan can be very reassuring to parents to be as they will be able to find out if everything is going as it should be and, in the case that there is a problem, it allows them to better prepare for any changes they will have to make to their lives and to see if they will need extra help caring for the child.

This entry was posted in News, Obstetric

Tom Farrell

Written by Tom Farrell

Tom Farrell works in both the NHS and private sector providing gynaecology, pregnancy ultrasound and maternity care clinics in the Jessop Wing (NHS) and BMI Thornbury & Claremont Hospital (Private sector) in Sheffield.

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4D scan - great. Helped us introduce our new baby to our 3 year old, as he saw her on TV, over and over again. Kath (Sheffield)