Note to Researchers: Presuming ultrasound is the cause, if one of 100 babies who have 3 ultrasounds each develops autism, theoretically only one in 300 ultrasounds causes damage. There are two main theories: 1) there is a very specific time in fetal brain development when the ultrasound can do harm and 2) the damage is caused by overexposure – possibly a defective device or operator error. A significant fever during gestation has recently been shown to triple the rate of autism, and ultrasound can raise temperature.
Finding the evidence is like looking for a needle in a haystack and will require an atypical project. Medical records will not show the ultrasound videos and photos that are sold commercially. Suggestions for research projects are at the bottom of this page.
RESEARCH IN PROCESS
Medical Ultrasound Exposure Estimation in Finite-Amplitude Beams
Professor Victor F Humphrey, Professor of Acoustics, Fluid Dynamics and Acoustics Group, University of Southampton, UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction: The propagation of high amplitude ultrasonic waves is a nonlinear process resulting in significant distortion of the waves as they propagate. This process introduces a range of problems and makes the calibration of medical ultrasound systems much more difficult.
Description: This project aims to investigate a range of improved approaches to the problems of calibrating the fields of diagnostic ultrasound scanners which, due to the nonlinear nature of acoustic propagation, are subject to significant waveform distortion and enhanced attenuation in water. The project has demonstrated the accurate modelling of non-linear propagation for a wide range of pulsed fields, analysed an extensive sample of finite amplitude fields generated by medical arrays in water and tissue and is proposing possible strategies to the measurement problems.
CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment)
University of California – Davis and Los Angeles
Contact: Gary Hughes 916-734-6684, BeInCharge@ucdavis.edu
CHARGE was launched in 2003 as a study of 1,000 to 2,000 children with differing patterns of development. The goal is to better understand the causes and contributing factors for autism or developmental delay. Three groups of children are being enrolled in the CHARGE study: children with autism, children with developmental delay who do not have autism and children from the general population. All of them are evaluated for a broad array of exposures and susceptibilities.
CHARGE did collect ultrasound data but did not intend to analyze it. As of August 2011, the research team was evaluating the quality of that data to see if analysis was possible.
The National Children’s Study (www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov)
The National Children’s Study will examine the effects of the environment, as broadly defined to include factors such as air, water, diet, sound, family dynamics, community and cultural influences, and genetics on the growth, development, and health of children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21 years. The goal of the Study is to improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the role various factors have on health and disease. Findings from the Study will be made available as the research progresses, making potential benefits known to the public as soon as possible.
This study requires an ultrasound before week 13 and will provide it, if the study subject has not already had one. The study apparently is recording the number and types of ultrasound sessions participants undergo. As of spring 2011, analyzing the ultrasound results was not among the 23 hypotheses being tested by the NCS, although it could provide searchable data for outside investigators.
The National Children’s Study is led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with a consortium of federal government partners. Study partners include the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Study to Explore Early Development (SEED)
SEED is a multi-year study funded by CDC. It is currently the largest study in the United States to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities.
SEED is collecting ultrasound data. The collection of data, as of summer of 2011, is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.
EARLI is dedicated to studying families that already have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who are pregnant or who might become pregnant in the future. The EARLI Study focuses on the prenatal and early life periods in newborns who have brothers or sisters already diagnosed with an ASD. EARLI will closely follow families from the start of the pregnancy to the time the baby reaches age three. The comprehensive data we collect will be analyzed to help us better understand the complex causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
EARLI began depending upon self-reported ultrasound information but as of August 2011 was considering improving the collection of ultrasound data.
The phenotypic expression of autism, according to the Triple Hit Hypothesis, is determined by three factors: a developmental time window of vulnerability, genetic susceptibility, and environmental stressors. In utero exposure to thalidomide, valproic acid, and maternal infections are examples of some of the teratogenic agents which increase the risk of developing autism and define a time window of vulnerability. An additional stressor to genetically susceptible individuals during this time window of vulnerability may be prenatal ultrasound.
Ultrasound enhances the genesis and differentiation of progenitor cells by activating the nitric oxide (NO) pathway and related neurotrophins. The effects of this pathway activation, however, are determined by the stage of development of the target cells, local concentrations of NO, and the position of nuclei (basal versus apical), causing consequent proliferation at some stages while driving differentiation and migration at others. Ill-timed activation or overactivation of this pathway by ultrasound may extend proliferation, increasing total cell number, and/or may trigger precipitous migration, causing maldistribution of neurons amongst cortical lamina, ganglia, white matter, and germinal zones.
The rising rates of autism coincident with the increased use of ultrasound in obstetrics and its teratogenic/toxic effects on the CNS demand further research regarding a putative correlation.
Rapporteur report: Roundup, Discussion and Recommendations
Zenon Sienkiewicz. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (journal), Volume 93, Issues 1-3, Pages 414-420 (January-April 2007)
Abstract: There is a relative paucity of recent information regarding the long-term health effects associated with exposure to ultrasound, and to infrasound and low-frequency noise (LFN). For ultrasound, further epidemiological studies are recommended, and priority should be given to studies investigating the effects of handedness and to studies assessing possible subtle effects on brain function. These studies should reflect contemporary practises in diagnostic ultrasound and have sufficiently long follow-up periods to examine the possibility of effects into late adolescence or beyond. In the absence of a non-exposed control group, it would be advisable to make comparisons between a highly exposed group with a less exposed group, and to compare groups exposed at differing gestational stages. The effects associated with ultrasound contrast agents should also be studied, and the appropriateness of the thermal index (TI) and mechanical index (MI) should be reviewed. It is recommended that animal models should be used to investigate the effects of exposure at differing gestational ages on development, and modern cellular and molecular techniques used to investigate potential mechanisms of interaction. Although explicit morphological changes have been reported following occupational and experimental exposures to infrasound and low LFN, it was recommended that a thorough review of the relevant biological and health effects literature was necessary before specific proposals could be made. Uncertainties about the characterisation of these low frequencies also indicated the need to develop appropriate measurement techniques and protocols.
No Researcher Identified for this Needed Research
No researcher identified: In societies where sex selection through ultrasound identification is widely practiced, the ratio of the percentage of males with autism to the percentage of females with autism should be even higher than in other societies.
No researcher identified: Two evaluations of hundreds of ultrasounds, primarily echocadiograms, in Swedish hospitals found transducer malfunction rates of 40%38 and 30%39 . A field evaluation of imaging ultrasounds used in prenatal care would likely reveal similar patterns. If the control panel does not accurately control the intensity of the sonar waves, the exposure levels could exceed the guidelines and heat tissue.
No researcher identified: Using anatomical models of the female abdomen and various sizes of a fetus, track the temperatures in the fetal skull and soft brain tissue during ultrasound scans.
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