Read Original Story

Ultrasound found to affect brain development in mice; experts urge limited use

Rating

3 Star

Ultrasound found to affect brain development in mice; experts urge limited use

Our Review Summary

Sonograms are a routine part of monitoring the developing fetus. Until recently, they were only done for medical purposes. However, women can now get songorams in many malls and shopping centers across the US, often in color and 3-D, to keep as mementoes. This story reports on a new study showing that prolonged exposure to ultrasound can damage the growth of nerve cells in mice. Because this study was done in mice (not humans) and the implications of these results are not known, few conclusions can be drawn from these results. This story attempts to explain the controversies, but is flawed in several ways.

The story does not adequately describe the harms of ultrasound. The story states that “a small number of nerve cells …. failed to extend correctly.” This is not sufficient information on harms. It is also not clear what “prolonged” use of ultrasound means — are these some special ultrasounds that happen in these consumer-based settings, or is this the kind of exposure that might result from usual medical use? Furthermore, the story also does not adequately describe the design of the study or comment on the strength of the available evidence.

By focusing on “disorders thought to be the result of misplacement of cells during their development,” the story engages in disease mongering. By implying that sonograms could lead to disorders such as retardation, epilepsy, autism, and mental illness, the story exaggerates the seriousness of the findings.

The story does quote two sources, the lead researcher of the study and the president of an ultrasound association. The story could have quoted additional, independent researchers or clinicians who could have provided some additional perspective.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not discuss costs.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

Because this story focuses on harms of ultrasound, quantification of benefits is not applicable in this case.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not adequately describe the harms of ultrasound. The story states that “a small number of nerve cells …. failed to extend correctly.” This is not sufficient information on harms. Also, it is not clear what “prolonged” use of ultrasound means — are these some special ultrasounds that happen in these consumer-based settings, or is this the kind of exposure that might result from usual medical use?

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not adequately describe the design of the study or comment on the strength of the available evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

By focusing on “disorders thought to be the result of misplacement of cells during their development,” the story engages in disease mongering. By implying that sonograms could lead to disorders such as retardation, epilepsy, autism, and mental illness, the story exaggerates the seriousness of the findings (which were in mice not humans).

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story quotes two sources, the lead researcher of the study and the president of an ultrasound association. The story could have quoted additional, independent researchers or clinicians who could have provided some additional perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions the obvious alternative, avoiding unnecessary sonograms.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story states that “keepsake sonograms” are popular. The story should have described how widely available they are.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story implies that “keepsake sonograms” are a new phenomenon. And the wider concern is for obstetric ultrasound in general – a long-established practice.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.