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This one is about: Cleft Detection Through Ultrasound

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by Karen Christy

We live in a high tech world. Advancements in medical technology are being made every day, especially in the field of sonography.

Ultrasound has had its greatest impact in the field of obstetrics. It is a way for doctors to see and examine the fetus while still inside the uterus. Doctors can pinpoint the mother's due date to within one week, check the fetal internal organs and see the characteristics of the fetal face.

Cleft lip and palate are the most common of all craniofacial disorders. Today one in every 700 infants in the United States is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Because of the advanced technology in ultrasound, it is quite common for facial disorders to be detected in utero.

Dr Glenn Rouse of the Department of Diagnostic Ultrasonography at Loma Linda University Medical Center, is a specialist in the field of ultrasound. He said there is a difference in the quality of ultrasound exams. Not every woman will have a high level prenatal ultrasound exam that detects cleft lip or other facial anomalies. "The detection and diagnosis of fetal craniofacial conditions is made more commonly at high level medical centers."

Said Dr Rouse, "Cleft lip and palate are not typically looked for during a routine prenatal ultrasound exam, and not every doctor will be able to make this type of diagnosis with confidence, and feel comfortable with it.

In about 70% of cases the fetal face is clearly visualized using ultrasound. Facial disorders have been detected at the 15th gestational week of the pregnancy. Ultrasound can be precise and reliable when diagnosing fetal craniofacial conditions.

"Viewing the fetal face is easy, and sometimes can be done quickly. But this can also be complicated too," said Dr Rouse. "The fetal face isn't always visible. The fetus may be facing posterior, or the arms are covering the front of the face. It's like the fetus is playing hide and seek. Sometimes it can take up to two hours to complete a prenatal ultrasound exam."

When the fetus is diagnosed with a craniofacial condition, the mother should, according to Dr Rouse, be advised by her doctor to have an amniocentesis done. This is suggested because there is a 10% chance that the fetus with a facial anomaly will have an associated chromosome disorder too. There are more than 300 syndromes that are associated with cleft lip and/or palate. The amniocentesis will confirm if the fetus has a multiple anomaly.

"These tests are suggested and done so the doctors can make recommendations to the parents, and to help to better prepare them for the birth of their infant." said Dr Rouse.

There are benefits of early diagnosis of fetal facial disorders. The doctors can help to assure the parents of the infant's rehabilitative process and give the family information about how to feed and care for an infant with a cleft. The doctors can offer the family support, information, and understanding.

------------This article was reprinted with permission from the Antelope Valley Craniofacial News, a newsletter by Facing Tomorrow With AboutFace.

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