FDA discourages fetal “keepsake” imaging

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- Many pregnant women get amazing ultrasound images of their baby, and not necessarily for medical reasons. The Food and Drug Administration is re-issuing an alert discouraging "keepsake" imaging. One local sonographer says the focus of the alert isn't where it should be.

Sara Gillum, her partner and two grandmothers-to-be have come from northern Missouri to Prenatal Imaging Centers in south Kansas City to see the baby Gillum is expecting in March.

Gillum had a diagnostic ultrasound at her doctor's office weeks ago, and says she wanted another look to make sure everything is okay.

"But also just from the curiosity aspect, seeing in 3-D what the baby really looks like," said Gillum.

She's paying $85 for 30 minutes of imaging and a CD and DVD to take home. The Food and Drug Administration is discouraging the use of ultrasound for creating fetal keepsake images. The FDA says there is a lack of evidence of any harm, but ultrasound can heat tissues slightly and, in some cases, produce very small bubbles in some tissues.  The long-term effects are not known.

Sonographer Jeanette Burlbaw says there's never been a study showing a negative effect.

"They need to address the real issue, which is the transducer always needs to be in the hands of a skilled sonographer. Then the safety issue is no longer a question," said Burlbaw.

She says some people with little training are doing keepsake imaging.

The FDA points out that the sessions can last as long as an hour.

"We know not to sit there for 24 minutes without moving the transducer or removing it, giving the patient time," said Burlbaw.

Gillum's reaction to the FDA alert?

"This is a one-time deal, so I'm not concerned," she said.

She's just amazed at seeing her baby's face clearly for the first time.

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