Board of Medicine

Policy on the Use of Ultrasounds for Non-Medical Reasons

Approved by the Iowa Board on March 29, 2007

This policy statement is not a legally binding opinion of the board, but is only intended to provide guidance to the public. The board may make formal policy only through administrative rules, declaratory orders, or contested case decisions.

The Iowa Board of Medical Examiners has determined that the use of fetal ultrasound for nonmedical purposes, e.g., keepsake photographs or videos, is inappropriate. Although studies have shown that fetal ultrasound produces physiological changes in the fetus, no harmful changes have been identified. However, the board is unable to say that future research will continue to find ultrasound to be harmless.

The board bases its opinion upon the 2004 Committee Opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which states:

“…The use of either two-dimensional or three-dimensional ultrasound to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus or determine the fetal gender without medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice. The appropriate use of fetal ultrasonography includes performing examinations only when there is diagnostic information to be obtained. …”

Board members remind Iowa-licensed physicians that the Food & Drug Administration has determined the use of fetal ultrasounds solely for keepsake purposes to be an unapproved use of a Class II medical device. In addition, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine has warned that non-diagnostic fetal imaging without medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice.

The board asks Iowa-licensed physicians to refrain from performing non-diagnostic fetal ultrasounds for non-medical purposes or from referring patients to other practitioners who are engaged in this practice.

1 ACOG Committee Opinion, Non-medical Use of Obstetric Ultrasonography, Number 297, August 2004
2 Rados, Carol. FDA Cautions Against Ultrasound ‘Keepsake’ Images. February 2007. http://foodconsumer.org.
3 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Board of Registration in Medicine, Policy 03-05, Policy Regarding Keepsake
Fetal Videos, December 17, 2003.

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