Capturing the first of any moment is a significant memorial in all of our lives. Being able to document and seize our notable accomplishments outside of our memories is meaningful. This nostalgia is particularly true when it comes to parents. From first steps to first dates, mommies and daddies everywhere are filling phones, tablets, and whatever other device they can get their hands on to gain a snapshot of their children’s first. It is a privilege and honor that in the field of obstetrics-gynecology (OBGYN), healthcare providers are in the business of providing parents the beginning of their children’s very first.
Before parents have the wonderful opportunity to physically lay eyes on their new addition, technology gives them an improved way to behold their unborn baby. Advances have taken point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) technology to elevated heights altering the impact and sophistication of imaging in OBGYN practices. Using the same devices of elated parents, mobile phones and tablets, an OBGYN can tell the sex of a baby while precisely capturing what they’re doing, like sucking their thumb. Both 3D and 4D ultrasounds have revolutionized imaging from abstract depictions to in-depth, insightful visuals of a fetus.
Apart from producing more explicit and refined images, the most noticeable difference between the standard 2D ultrasound and its more advanced 3D and 4D counterparts is their ability to record images at different angles while managing and interpreting more data. In obstetrics, ultrasound monitors the course of any pregnancy from five weeks of gestation to term. With more data at their fingertips, medical professionals can monitor specific concerns and issues during this critical time.
Dr. David Abovyan, an OBGYN working at Erebouni Medical Center in Armenia, notes that proactively preparing for crises is one of the greatest difficulties those in his field encounter. “The [most difficult] challenge obstetrician and gynecologists face are emergencies such as bleeding, missed abortion, placental abruption, ectopic pregnancy, intrauterine fetal death, TTTS in twins, cervical incompetence, and situations when a decision about pregnancy termination occurs.”
Utilizing POCUS to help diagnose and stay abreast of gynecological issues like pelvic pain or abnormal uterine bleeding has drastically reduced fatality among mother and baby. Immediate diagnosis is relevant in OBGYN. A delayed determination of obstetrical or gynecological complications may lead to critical outcomes for the mother and the fetus. POCUS provides real-time answers to what otherwise could be a life-threatening situation.
For example, using POCUS assists in identifying the reason for abdominal pain, bleeding, abdominal distension, or defining a pelvic mass. An ectopic or extra-uterine pregnancy may cause abdominal pain in a pregnant patient, and a well-performed POCUS examination can confirm a physician’s suspicions. This pocket-sized modality can also detect a missing intrauterine gestational sac, the presence of a tubal sac, or free intraperitoneal fluid caused by a rupture of the fallopian tubes.
Due to its vast ability to monitor, assess, and determine the progression and health of a pregnancy through its full term, POCUS is attributed as rewriting the trajectory of OBGYN. “POCUS has changed my specialty rapidly with new technology, new investigation, and new protocols,” Dr. Abovyan shares. “It helps to treat patients more accurately, faster, and in a non-invasive way.”
POCUS should be considered a routine extension of practice for OBGYN clinicians as not only does it offer a picture-perfect vision of a person yet to come, it also provides immediate answers to conditions and concerns as they arise. “Soon, we will be able to diagnose 100% of all fetal and gynecological pathologies,” Dr. Abovyan predicts of his profession. And as a bonus, just maybe that first image one day will appear as if baby is right there in mother’s arms.